Healing through Repentance

Joshua West

Throughout the Scriptures, when the judgement of God fell on Israel, he would look throughout the land, not for a strong man or a smart man or even a wise man. He looked for a praying man, a man who was grieved by sin the same way he was, who strived to live righteously and longed for the holiness of God. Some people like to only talk about the wrath of God. 

On the other side of the spectrum, there are many more who only focus on and talk about the love of God. While both are true and are real attributes of God, there is only one attribute of God that is so important it’s mentioned more than any other in the Scripture; and when it is mentioned, it is often repeated three times in a row to show its importance. This attribute is his holiness. 

“And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” (Isaiah 6:3, ESV).

America is not beyond saving, but God’s salvation and restoration isn’t offered to the arrogant and the prideful; it is only extended to the contrite and repentant. We are in desperate need of God’s mercy and grace, but what most think that means in this day and age is something far from the reality that is presented to us in Scripture. 

Praying for God’s blessing and favor will not undo what we face in this nation. Only a heart of repentance and a church that is willing to once again seek God’s face and mourn our sin and turn from wicked ways. Don’t we know that it was God’s holiness that required a payment for sin in the first place? God doesn’t just hate sin; he cannot have sin in his presence. Here in our hedonistic culture, full of filth and depravity, we think we are doing good by sinning less. 

What we fail to realize is the fact that God can never accept sin. Although we will never be perfect this side of heaven, believing that because Christ died for us we shouldn’t worry about sin is as foolish as saying because I’m an imperfect husband, I shouldn’t strive to be faithful to my wife. She said ‘till death do us part, so why does it matter if I cheat? She is required to forgive me, right? Just because God made a way for us to stand righteous before him through the blood of Christ doesn’t mean everyone will benefit from this, only those who in humility bow deep before him in surrender and repentance. 

I fear that many who are now asleep to the mixture that has crept into the church will not be easily be awakened. Have you ever heard the old story about cooking a frog in a hot pot of water? It is a crude and simple story, but the point it communicates is direct and concise. 

If you throw a frog into a boiling hot pot of water, it will jump out as soon as the scolding water touches its skin because of the shock and pain. If you put a frog into a lukewarm pot of water and slowly began to increase the temperature little by little, the frog will let you boil it alive. It doesn’t feel the pain or shock of the heat because it is gradually getting used to the temperature; and once the water is hot enough to boil the frog, it is too late. 

When the majority of your life is lived in God’s presence, sin will become shocking and painful to you. Fifty years ago, no one would have put up with the things that are going on in our culture, the church, and our lives. Fifty years ago, it would have scandalized people to see nudity on evening television, transgender men sharing bathrooms with our wives and daughters, abortion, euthanasia, pornographic advertisements, the list goes on and on. 

What about the church? In recent years, we see there homosexual clergy, a rejection of the Bible, worldly music, secular systems and methods, no altars, no crosses, no Bible study, no real prayer, sin accepted on every level, sound doctrine replaced with the witty but empty words of man, holiness now called legalism. 

Because we have become used to sin and depravity little by little, we find ourselves now at the boiling point. So where do we start? It will not be in our culture or even in the church. The place we must start is in our own hearts and lives. 

When we earnestly pray and seek God, he will refine us and work out the impurity in our lives. Healing starts with repentance! I know many Christian people who live carefree lives and feel as if they have arrived, that they have reached a state of grace that no longer requires repentance. I fear for these people the most. 

Why are they not concerned with the holiness of God? Why don’t they lament and mourn over sin? Why doesn’t the thought of their lost loved ones drive them to a prayer closet? Why aren’t we fearlessly proclaiming the gospel and preaching salvation through the repentance of sin secured by Christ’s shed blood? The prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles all did. What makes us think we, who do not have Christ’s perfection, have transcended the need for prayer and repentance? Maybe it’s because we are no longer true students of the scripture, nor do we live lives that are consumed with prayer. 

When you talk like this nowadays, people say you are legalistic. In some corrupt circles of men, a husband might be ridiculed because he is faithful to his wife, won’t watch pornography, won’t go to topless bars, or won’t pick up women for one-night stands. Be wary of people who claim to love God but like to argue for and explain away sin. From the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak.
How can we look out across the church of entertainment and compromise and not mourn? It’s because we have built a home in this world and decided to have our best life now, instead of living like pilgrims, foreigners, and exiles who are only passing through. We must remember that our mission is to preach the gospel and live lives of righteousness that far exceed that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, living as salt and light in a tasteless and dark world. People who believe that God’s grace should make us less concerned with striving towards holiness truly don’t understand the nature of an intimate relationship built on love and trust. 

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12). 

The perversion of grace that has taken hold over much of the church almost makes it seem like you are doing something wrong if you actively work to abstain from the sinful desires that are waging war against your soul. Please remember Matthew 7:13-14, where it says broad is the road that leads to destruction. God’s grace does cover us, but if you still love sin and the things of this world, you should probably look around and see if your surroundings are broad and if the road you walk is broad. 

Are you going with the flow and moving with the masses, or are you on a narrow path fenced in with sound doctrine? Are you living a life like the Apostle Peter says makes you stand out from the crowd? Does your life look a lot like those outside the faith, or are you known for living a life of holiness and a life of Christ-like love? 

“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

I’m convinced that people who love God will strive for holiness because of the inner working of the Holy Spirit. Why do we pervert grace to mean something it doesn’t? Grace doesn’t mean doing what you want; grace means that since we are in fellowship with a perfect and holy God, we need grace to exist. Those who truly love God will strive for holiness and live lives that bring glory to the name of Jesus. 

When we fall, grace is there to draw us to repentance, and those who repent God is faithful to forgive. People who don’t feel the need to live in repentance either have no sin, which is impossible, or reject God’s true grace through their pride. 

“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6).

The apostle Paul says, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). It is interesting to hear people who seek to excuse a life of compromise and in their pride call this the grace of God. They get upset when you speak about striving for holiness or purifying ourselves from things that contaminate our body or spirit. However, Paul, the person who wrote more than any other biblical writer about the grace of God, also wrote often about separating ourselves from sin and living lives of repentance. He never used grace as an explanation or excuse for sin. On the contrary, he used terminology like beating his flesh into subjection and self-denial for the sake of God’s glory. 

You often find when you discuss these issues with people who resist the idea of repentance, they use terminology like “I feel like,” and “I believe God means,” but rarely will you hear a direct statement like “the Bible says.” 

When we spend time in his presence and his Word, not devotionals or books about his Word or listening to feel-good topical messages, but rather reading his words line upon line and precept upon precept, we began to see things his way. Spending time in his presence will draw us to repentance, because how can you be in the presence of a holy God and not feel like the prophet Isaiah did? 

“And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’” (Isaiah 6:5).

Have we surpassed the prophet Isaiah? We live in compromise and in a culture so depraved that our eyes are exposed daily to things that stain our very souls, and you’re telling me that being in the presence of God doesn’t draw us to repentance? How can we be in God’s presence and not be in frightful awe? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I guess some might say that was the Old Testament, and we have a different relationship with God now because of Christ. In some ways is true, but I don’t think that changes what a sinful man feels when he comes into the presence of a Holy God. 

Let us consider John the apostle. No disciple had a closer and more dear relationship with Jesus than John, the son of Zebedee. In his gospel, he refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. It says in the scriptures that John rested his head upon Jesus’s chest; he would have been close enough to hear the very heartbeat of the Savior. 

John was as close to Jesus as any human ever was, but when he came in contact with the resurrected Christ in all his glory in the book of Revelation, it says that the glory of God was so great on Jesus that John fell at his feet as if he was a dead man. 

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last’” (Revelation 1:17).

Spending a lot of time in his presence will keep us reverent toward God, living in repentance and striving towards holiness. If we began to fast and pray and seek God’s face, he will heal our calloused hearts; he will break our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh. We will care less and less about the trappings and toys of this world. We have a choice to repent of our infidelity toward God and divorce ourselves from the world and all it has to offer. 

We will pledge our faithfulness to the bridegroom who has redeemed us, or we will embrace this world and reject the Lord. You can’t have both. If you love the world or the things in this world, the love of God is not in you! 

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

If we do the will of God, we will live forever because of what Christ has done for us. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are in opposition to a surrendered servant of Jesus. Stay pure. Resist the traps the enemy has built to entice your sinful nature. Put it to death by starving it out. 

We can no longer let our culture or the church set the standard for what is acceptable and what is right. We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord. We must search out our deceitfully wicked hearts according to the scriptures and put to death anything that doesn’t pass the test. Personal holiness is what we must work toward. It’s up to Christ to take the life that we have given as an offering to him and transform it from the inside out, but it’s up to us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow him. 

We must pray with reverence and humility because this is the kind of prayer God wants from us. A man that has no sense of remorse for that fact that he is a sinner in need of God’s mercy has no place with God. How can we enter the temple with pride in our step and arrogance in our hearts unless we are deceived? A man aware of his sin is a man who knows he needs God’s mercy. This is living in repentance. Heaven will be full of these kinds of people because only people who are truly aware of their desperate need for God will approach him in humility. 

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14).

In Christ,

Pastor Joshua

Joshua West is a pastor, evangelist, and author. He is also director of the World Challenge Pastors Network.


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