Many times repentance is illustrated by having a person walk in one direction and then turn around and walk in the opposite direction. The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines “repent” as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life”. Repentance is a change of mind and attitude that involves a conscious turning away from wrong actions, attitudes, thoughts and habits that conflict with a Godly lifestyle and biblical commands, and an intentional turning toward doing that which the Bible says pleases God.
As I reflect upon this, I find that many people do not do a 180 degree turn-around so much as they stop at 90 degrees. By this I mean that they stop doing what is wrong but do not replace it with what is right. One only needs to read the words of John the Baptist or the Apostle Paul to see how incomplete that is. The one who steals is to steal no longer but also to work and earn what he needs. Even more, he is to earn enough so that he has excess in order that he can give to those without so that they no longer are tempted to steal. One is to stop talking with a filthy mouth and bless and edify people instead. We are commanded to not only forgive our enemies but to pray that God blesses them, while blessing them ourselves.
In order to tell is a person is truly repentant, John the Baptist gives the definitive proof – do good works (produce fruit) in keeping with that repentance. Talk is cheap. One can pray seeking forgiveness for one’s wrongdoing but never obtain it because they have no intention of repenting. Repentance is often the forgotten aspect of salvation, in that we are not forgiven by God unless we come to Him with a repentant heart.
I.C. Herendeen says is well, when he states, ” For salvation, “repentance unto life” is just as necessary as is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. No sinner was ever pardoned while he remained impenitent, while he remained in rebellion against God and His authority, and without submitting himself whole-heartedly to His Lordship. This involves the realization in his heart, wrought therein by the Holy Spirit, of “the sinfulness of sin” (Rom 7:13), of the awfulness of ignoring the claims of God and of defying His authority. Repentance is a “holy horror and hatred of sin, a deep sorrow for it, a contrite acknowledgment of it before God, and a complete hear forsaking of it.To exhort sinners to be saved by “Accepting Christ as their Saviour” without pressing upon them the imperative necessity of repentance is dishonest, and is to falsify God’s terms of salvation, for “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 17:3) is the Divine dictum. The sinner must either repent or perish, there is no other alternative. And since “All have sinned” (Rom. 3:23) all therefore need to “repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15) else they will be “punished with everlasting destruction” (2Thess. 1:9). To delay repentance then is most perilous.”
I end these thoughts with the words of Charles Hodge, a great man of God. He says, “The sure test of the quality of any supposed change of heart will be found in its permanent effects. Whatever, therefore, may have been our inward experience, whatever joy or sorrow we may have felt, unless we bring forth fruits meet for repentance, our experience will profit us nothing. Repentance is incomplete unless it leads to confession and restitution in cases of injury; unless it causes us to forsake not merely outward sins, which others notice, but those which lie concealed in the heart; unless it makes us choose the service of God and live not for ourselves but for Him. There is no duty, which is either more obvious in itself, or more frequently asserted in the Word of God, than that of repentance.”
Let us take heed of the words of John the Baptist and truly repent of sin in our life.
It bothers me to hear from fellow pastors that they are not doing counseling, at least, no more than a session or two. It seems that they have bought into the philosophy that they are somehow not qualified to help people with their problems like a “professional” counselor is. This is dangerous thinking. A pastor usually has 4, sometimes 8 – 10 years of formal education in the word of God. Their very calling as a shepherd requires them to use Scripture to help people live productive lives that will be blessed by God. Is this not counseling? How can one justify sending a hurting, confused person that you are spiritually responsible for, from your flock, to an outside person? It is an abrogation of one’s responsibility.
Unless there is a medical problem that is suspected, there should not be a referral to an outside person, especially if the one being referred to isn’t even a Christian! Every problem has a sin component to it. It is the pastors job to help identify the problem. Without identifying the sin(s) contributing or causing a persons problem, remedy cannot be made. The pastor needs to lead them to confess and repent of said sin and make restitution where possible. The person must then be given godly habits to instill and accountability with their lifestyle so that there is not a relapse. This holds true for marriage counseling, family counseling, addictive behaviors, etc.
It is time for pastors to stop being lazy, stop buying into the lie that they are not capable of counseling, and get involved in the lives of their people. It is easy to preach, easy to lead meetings – it is hard work to actually shepherd a people and care for them. To say you don’t know how means you are admitting you don’t know how to take God’s Word and apply it to real life. You need to repent of your laziness and have the integrity to stop calling yourself a pastor or repent of your ignorance of how to use God’s Word and go and learn.
Do you care enough about your people to help them? Do you know enough to help them? Its time to stop playing church, stop playing leader and learn how to serve as God calls us to serve.