September 17, 2012
Many Christians are praying for repentance and the restoration of America. That's good! But do we really understand the meaning and significance of genuine repentance? Do we grieve the horrendous mind-changing corruption now growing like yeast across America -- even in churches?
Have we, too, been blinded to the spreading darkness by the false lights of the world's beckoning enticements? Do we share any of its addictive lust for amoral thrills? Or are we willing to walk with Him no matter the cost?
Fast becoming like heathen nations, America is now rejecting -- even banning -- God's Word and ways. [See "Persecution"] In its place, a new "tower of Babel" is rising. A dark monument to global unity and anti-Christian pluralism, it aims to eradicate God's eternal Truth and establish a new world order based on power, tyranny and dark spiritual mysteries that few can even fathom.
If they succeed, Biblical faith and freedom will fade -- and those who refuse to compromise may well face the torturous deaths now common in radical Islamic nations. For example:
Christian boy tortured and killed in Pakistan: "The tortured body of an 11 year old Christian boy has been found in a town in Punjab, Pakistan, days after a young Christian girl was arrested on blasphemy charges. ... Human rights campaigners condemned the killing of Samuel Yaqoob whose burned and tortured body was discovered on Eid, the celebration which marks the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. His lips and nose had been sliced off, his stomach removed and there was evidence that his legs had been mutilated too. The boy had been missing since Monday when he left his home in the town's Christian Colony to visit a local market."
In spite of my longing to follow God's way and delight in His presence each moment, I know I don't see the full extent of my own sins and failures. How often I head outside for my little "prayer closet" (an old playhouse converted by our son into a place for prayer and study) to spend time with Him early in the morning -- but am delayed by some worthless distractions. I tell Him I'm sorry (for I long to put Him first in all things), but then I do it again -- and again.
Do you grieve over your sins and failures too? So did the apostle Paul, and I appreciate his insights:
"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. ... I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity.... O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:18-25).
"Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance....For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death." (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)
In the past, true repentance was a familiar life-giving choice prompted by the Holy Spirit and encouraged in faithful churches. But now it's rarely discussed. The current emphasis on self-esteem and self-justification has done much to blind the masses to both genuine guilt and the joy of God-given forgiveness.
Though the word repentance may sound both humble and sincere, genuine New Testament repentance is far more than group confession, personal admission of guilt, being sorry for sins, or attempts to do better. True repentance involves a work of the Holy Spirit in hearts touched by God! Only by His grace can we truly "see" our own sins, grieve over our selfishness, experience God's wonderful forgiveness and turn from our corrupt nature to a new life in Him.
To know God and follow His way we need an inner transformation -- a supernatural work by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of broken sinners who long to be freed from bondage to self [the "flesh"] and all its cravings. We need a new life in Christ! Only then are we truly equipped to follow Jesus, share His love, and suffer with Him in this corrupt world that is fast turning its back to God's wonderful grace.
Peter longed to follow Jesus and do His will, but he was unprepared to deal with his own weaknesses until after the crucifixion.
The following excerpts from a chapter on "Repentance" in Andrew Murray's book Absolute Surrender
(written in the late 1800s) show us the way to victory in Christ.
“And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said unto him, 'before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice.' And Peter went out, and wept bitterly." Luke 12: 61-62.
That was the turning-point in the history of Peter. Christ had said to him, “Thou canst not follow Me now.” Peter was not in a fit state to follow Christ, because he had not been brought to an end of himself; he did not know himself, and he therefore could not follow Christ. But when he went out and wept bitterly, then came the great change. Christ previously said to him, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Here is the point where Peter was converted from self to Christ.
I thank God for the story of Peter. I do not know a man in the Bible who gives us greater comfort. When we look at his character, so full of failures, and at what Christ made him by the power of the Holy Ghost, there is hope for every one of us. But remember that Peter, before Christ could fill him with the Holy Spirit, and make a new man of him, had to go out and weep bitterly; he had to be humbled.
If we want to understand this, I think, there are four points that we must look at.
1. First, then, look at Peter the devoted disciple of Christ. Christ called Peter to forsake his nets and follow Him. Peter did it at once, and he afterwards could say rightly to the Lord, "We have forsaken all, and followed Thee.” Peter was a man of entire surrender; he gave up all to follow Jesus.
Peter was also a man of true obedience. When Christ said to him, “Launch out into the deep, and let down the net,” Peter the fisherman knew there were no fish there, for they had been toiling all night and had caught nothing, but he said, “At Thy word I will let down the net.” He submitted to the word of Jesus.
Further, he was a man of great faith. When ‘he saw Christ walking on the sea, he said, “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee;” and at the voice of Christ he stepped out of the boat and walked upon the water.
And Peter was a man of spiritual insight. When Christ asked the disciples, “Whom do ye say that I am?” Peter was able to answer, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Christ said,
“Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven.”
Peter was a...devoted disciple of Jesus. And yet how much there was wanting in Peter!
2. Look next at Peter living the life of self, pleasing self, and trusting self, and seeking the honor of self. You recollect that just after Christ had said to him, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven,” Christ began to speak about His sufferings, and Peter dared to say, “Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be unto Thee.” Then Christ had to say, “Get thee behind Me, Satan; for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” There was Peter in his self-will, trusting his own wisdom, and actually forbidding Christ to go and die. Whence did that come?
Peter trusted in himself and his own thoughts about divine things. We see later on, more than once, that among the disciples there was a questioning who should be the greatest, and Peter was one of them, and he thought he had a right to the very first place. He sought his own honor even above the others. It was the life of self strong in Peter.
When Christ had spoken to him about His sufferings, and said, “Get thee behind Me, Satan,” He followed it up by saying,
“If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
No man can follow Him unless he do that. Self must be utterly denied. What does that mean? When Peter denied Christ, we read that he three times said, “I do not know the man”: in other words, “I have nothing to do with Him; He and I are no friends; I deny having any connection with Him.”
Christ told Peter that he must deny self. Self must be ignored, and its every claim rejected. That is the root of true discipleship; but Peter did not understand it, and could not obey it.
And what happened? When the last night came, Christ said to him, “Before the cock crow twice thou shalt deny Me thrice.” But with what self-confidence Peter said,
“Though all should forsake Thee, yet will not I. I am ready to go with Thee to prison and to death.”
Peter meant it honestly, and Peter really intended to do it; but Peter did not know himself....
We sing that hymn “Nothing unclean!” and we perhaps think of individual sins that come between us and God. But what are we to do with that self-life which is all unclean, our very nature? What are we to do with that flesh that is entirely under the power of sin?
Deliverance from that is what we need. Peter knew it not, and therefore it was that in his self-confidence he went forth, and denied his Lord. Notice how Christ uses that word deny twice. He said to Peter the first time, Deny self; He said to Peter the second time, Thou wilt deny Me. It is either of the two. There is no choice for us; we must either deny self or deny Christ. There are two great powers fighting each other—the self-nature in the power of sin, and Christ in the power of God. Either of these must rule within us.
3. Look now at Peter’s repentance. Peter denied his Lord thrice, and then the Lord looked upon him; and that look of Jesus broke the heart of Peter, and all at once there opened up before him the terrible sin that he had committed, the terrible failure that had come, and the depth into which he had fallen, and “Peter went out and wept bitterly.”
Who can tell what that repentance must have been? During the following hours of that night, and the next day, when he saw Christ crucified and buried, and the next day, the Sabbath—oh, in what hopeless despair and shame he must have spent that day!
My Lord is gone, my hope is gone, and I denied my Lord. After that life of love, after that blessed fellowship of three years, I denied my Lord. God have mercy upon me!
I do not think we can realize into what a depth of humiliation Peter sank then. But that was the turning-point and the change; and on the first day of the week Christ was seen of Peter, and in the evening He met him with the others. Later on at the Lake of Galilee He asked him, “Lovest thou Me?” until Peter was made sad by the thought that the Lord reminded him of having denied Him thrice; and said in sorrow, but in uprightness,
“Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee.”
4. And then Peter was prepared for the deliverance from self; and that is my last thought. Christ took him with the others to the footstool of the throne, and bade him wait there; and then on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came, and Peter was a changed man.
But do not only think thus: I can see the change in Peter, in that boldness, and that power, and that insight into the Scriptures, and that blessing with which he preached that day. Thank God for that. But there was something for Peter deeper and better. Peter’s whole nature was changed.
If you want to see that, read the First Epistle of Peter. You know wherein Peter’s failings lay. When he said to Christ, in effect, Thou never canst suffer; it cannot be—he showed that he had no conception of what it was to pass through death into life. Christ said, “Deny thyself,” and in spite of that he denied his Lord.
When Christ warned him, “Thou shalt deny Me,” and he insisted that he never would, Peter showed how little he understood what there was in himself. But when I read his Epistle, and hear him say, “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye, for the Spirit of God and of glory rests upon you,” then I say that is not the old Peter, but that is the very Spirit of Christ breathing and speaking within him.
“...those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord." (Acts 3:18-19)
Note: 1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, Daily Reading: November 19 (Discovery House Publisher, 1994).