“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
There are victims in this world. There are people who have been subjugated and abused by others more powerful than themselves: the bullies and the bullied, the wealthy oppressing the poor, men of power trapping the powerless, adults abusing children, adults abusing adults. However, all are commanded to repent, not just the mean-spirited and the powerful. Repentance is a high calling, and all are responsible.
Here are attributes we can engage:
1. We can know God’s standard for behavior.
2. We can oversee our own behavior.
3. We can recognize our sins according to God’s standard.
4. We can recognize the hope of redemption.
5. We can turn away from sins.
6. We can turn back to our Creator.
These point to qualities even a hardened soul can fulfill.
There is competition against repentance. We may find ourselves surrounded by barriers of complexity. Fences are erected from mankind’s tendency for self-justification. It’s like a reverse image of when Satan challenged God concerning Job’s righteousness.
1. “It is because of my parents.”
2. “It is because of my body chemistry.”
3. “It is because of what other people have done to me.”
4. “I didn’t ask to be born.”
Each of these reasons may have an element of truth. There are circumstances which cannot be controlled. Certainly, many souls need understanding more than reproach. However, there comes a point in life where each of us, individually, must accept responsibility for our sins. We cannot excuse ourselves because we may be victims of circumstance. Take this excerpt for an example: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites. . .” (1 Corinthians 6:9).Consider homosexuality. Among other things, it can refer to a boy who has been sexually abused and warped into effeminacy by adults. The evil practice of pederasty has been in the world for a long time. Consider the life of such a victim as he grows into physical maturity. No doubt, he could have confusion, anger, cynicism, and unnatural desire. This is a world-wide problem and it is old. However, the scripture gives us hope. “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. . .”(1 Corinthians 6:11).If being a victim has brought us to a point where we actively engage in sinful behavior, we must repent. Repentance is indicated by the statement, “such weresome of you.”Without repentance, we can never get away from our sins no matter how victimized we have been. Certainly, the perpetrator of abuse must repent. But victimization is not a reason for justification. We will never be happy blaming someone else for our own behavior.
The power of God makes repentance’s transformative work complete: “you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”Washed, sanctified, justified – these words point to being raised in honor, having been forgiven and transformed through Jesus and the Spirit of God.
· “In the name of the Lord Jesus. . .” points to His authority over all things. The apostle Paul prayed, “that you may know . . . what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead” (Ephesians 1:18-20). The power which the Father worked in Jesus can bring unimaginable changes to our lives.
· “By the Spirit of our God” states the power given to God’s children. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15).By the Spirit, we have the power to develop in ourselves our Father’s love. “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us”(1 John 3:24).The knowledge of God abiding in us comes because the Spirit can help produce demonstrable change. It is a change from wrong to right. It is a change which causes thanksgiving to flow from our hearts.
Repentance’s fulfillment can only be accessed through faith. Do we believe in the power of God? This is a vital question. It is a matter of life or death. The snippets we have considered from Romans, First John, and Ephesians show the reality. Repentance can bring about true change. The scriptures show the potential of who we can be. They give us confidence in our Creator, who brings potential to fulfillment. In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews we have a wonderful enumeration of men and women who did amazing things through faith. They lived before the illumination of Christ Jesus, not knowing the advantages of salvation. The chapter concludes,“God having provided something betterfor us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us”(Hebrews 11:40).
Are we victims, or are we oppressors? Without repentance we will all die in sin. It is beautiful to repent, to obey commandment of God. By doing this, we engage the best part of who we are to become more than what we are. God provides the strength for our fulfillment from here to eternity.