Repentance

by Charles Slack

In Acts 2:38, Peter outlines what one must do to be saved. The first requirement is repent, meaning turn away from sinful self. The Bible emphasizes repentance: the ministry of John the Baptist focused on it to pave the way for the Jesus who also stresses it, being “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) The Bible appears to assume its readers know what it means to repent. In Biblical times people understood the concept. But these days they don’t! Repentance needs to be spelled out in detail for modern man. An itemized list of repentance items was put together in the mid 1930’s by American alcoholics desperate to stop drinking. They compiled their list by reading (and listening to their wives read) the Bible (particularly the Book of James) and then spending a “quiet time” humbly asking God for specific personal instructions.

The result of this contrite seeking and desperate desire for abstinence is called The Twelve Steps. Today millions of people world-wide, employ “The Steps” to abstain from obsessive-compulsive sins like gambling, drugs, sex addiction, stealing, cluttering, co-dependence, anger, swearing, violence, compulsive shopping, overeating, – the list goes on. Christian churches also employ the Steps but are just more specific than AA about exactly who God is. Here is a Christian version of the Steps with associated scriptures.

Twelve Steps and Their Biblical Comparisons 1)Adapted by Celebrate Recovery

We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
Romans 7:18

We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Philippians 2:13

We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. 
Romans 12:1

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. 
Lamentations 3:40

We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed
James 5:16

We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. 
James 4:10

We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 
1 John 1:9

We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Luke 6:31

We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift
Matthew 5:23-24

We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 
1 Corinthians 10:12

We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
Colossians 3:16

Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore them gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 
Galatians 6:1

Of course, as Peter makes clear in Acts 2:38, repentance is not the whole story. To be saved one must also “be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and…receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”. But God honors sincere repentance by non-Christians, animists, pagans, even open-minded atheists who earnestly want to quit some heavy sin. Nineveh repented (Jonah 3:1-10) and God spared that city; Muslim Iran has nearly 4000 meetings of Narcotics Anonymous every week; AA and Al-Anon are going strong in the former Soviet Union and East Central Europe2)See the Legacy Vol 48 / issue 2 May/ June 2011 [link pdf] Many Buddhists seem to have no problem following the 12 Steps 3)see Kevin Griffin “One Breath At A Time

As a convicted Christian, I am certain that to remain totally free from obsessions and be happy about it requires an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit as well as a constant reminder that it’s the first bite of forbidden fruit (drug, punt, swear-word etc.) that does the damage. Most churches do a good job of emphasizing the relationship with Jesus. The 12 Steps have helped me and millions of others “go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

Addendum:

Perhaps this is the time to remind ourselves that repentance benefits the perpetrator not the victim. When I say “sorry” to you from my heart, I go away justified: God restores my righteousness. What happens to you in this case is between you and the Lord. You may reject my penance, might even shut the door in my face, but if I have followed Jesus’ teaching and repented, then I will go “down to my house justified” (Luke 18:14) Of course, there may be more to it than just saying “sorry”. Perhaps atonement is in order. Perhaps I have restitution to make. Maybe I have to put money where my mouth is. If so I must atone as if “unto the Lord.” My victim’s demands are not irrelevant but they are not paramount. My victim may be greedy, or revengeful, or too proud to accept my amends. Of course my victim may also be grateful – whatever. My victim’s attitude a matter between him and God, just as my justification is between me and God. And when we are victimized, what do we do? The Bible is clear: we forgive. If we continue to bear resentment or self-pity, we are the ones who suffer most! For our own righteousness, not to mention our mental health, we must forgive those who hurt us.

Nations are the same as individuals when it comes to apologies, expiation, amends and compensation. But right now, I’m thinking about you and me not the Australian nation. When wrong, admit it promptly. Don’t worry about the reaction. That’s their problem. We simply do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

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References   [ + ]

1. Adapted by Celebrate Recovery
2. See the Legacy Vol 48 / issue 2 May/ June 2011 [link pdf]
3. see Kevin Griffin “One Breath At A Time

Charles Slack

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