Monday, August 20, 2012

Defective Repentance

I spoke with a woman was told me she could not wait to get to heaven because she would see her mother there. The woman explained her excitement further: her mother had been an atheist all her life, but now she was enjoying the presence of God in heaven! Really?

Time after time I’ve heard people speak of the forgiveness and grace of God as if were automatic, as if God was obligated. Are mercy, grace and forgiveness part of the package deal of life simply because God knows we are sinners? Does God owe anyone forgiveness simply because they repent? People tell me, “I repent all the time! God just forgives!” He does?

Let’s think about David for a moment. Most people remember him for killing Goliath, the champion of invaders. David is also known for murdering a man and taking his wife. He later repented and was granted forgiveness and we have evidence of this in a few places in scripture, namely Psalm 51: David cries out, God responds. That settles it, right?

Hebrews 12:16-17 (from the Greek) makes a curious statement regarding Esau, “who in exchange for one meal sold the birthright of himself. For you know that also afterwards wanting to inherit the blessing he was rejected, for a place of repentance he did not find, although with tears having sought it.” Esau was in possession of every blessing of the firstborn, but he sold it and was embittered. We learn that Esau wanted back what he sold but was denied; further, “a place of repentance he did not find.” He was most very, deeply sorry for what he had done, but could not gain it back no matter how heartbroken he was.

Consider this: we make mistakes. Let’s use the biblical word: sin. We are sinners and as such, we face consequences. This is one point of Esau’s record. Another point is this: repentance does not remove the consequences. Sin brings death. Someone must die. Since Christ paid that penalty for us on the cross, then rose again, why would anyone want to keep what they have now and not take what is being offered that brings life for eternity?

Esau shed tears because he wanted the blessing but the truth remained that he cared nothing for it nor the giver of it. Though we cry out for forgiveness, do we want anything to do with the one who grants it? Are you able to enjoy the divine giver of grace and mercy forever? Are you willing to let bitterness against God die?

David’s prayer in Psalm 51 reveals no bitterness against God or anyone else. David’s prayer shows a man who is honest and broken to say he prefers the blessing-giver over the blessing. He was the king! What more could he want? He wanted God Himself and nothing between the two of them.

Like Esau, we are without the ability to materialize the desires of our hearts by the strength of our will. We make God do nothing. If we prefer to pursue and satisfy the hunger of our sin in exchange for reconciliation with God there is no place of repentance in us, no brokenness before Him that results from true sorrow. If we have no desire to be free from the power of sin, God will not grant the ability to escape so much as the penalty of the same.

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