When many of us believers think of the word Repentance, we think “feeling really bad because we sinned,” “promising God that we will stop sinning,” and “making the decision to live a holy life from now on.” But did you notice that there is no Saviour Jesus in this equation? It all rests on you. Jesus does not do anything here. This is a Judas kind of repentance – towards self and not towards God.
This is repentance to death and not repentance to life. The Parable of the Lost Sheep shows us what true Repentance is – a gift from God.
Luke 15: 4 – 7 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”
Let’s note five things that happened in this passage:
1. The sheep got lost (it left the flock either by mistake or on purpose; bottom line is it got separated from the Shepherd)
2. The Shepherd went to look for the sheep and found the sheep
3. The Shepherd was not mad at the sheep when he found it. He didn’t care if it was dirty, smoking, addicted to porn, fornicating, gay, stealing, bleeding, sick, had a tattoo, dressed inappropriately, whatever. He didn’t tell the sheep “Change your ways and stop sinning or else I will not save you. In fact, I will punish you.” Rather, He was ecstatic! He was just very happy to have found it.
4. After He found the sheep, the Shepherd carried it home, on His shoulders, rejoicing. He never asked it to clean itself up, walk by itself or do anything to make up for its bad behaviour or earn the right to be carried.
5. We know the sheep repented because Jesus said “likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”
Just in case you were wondering, we (believers in Christ) are the sheep and Christ, the Lord, is our Shepherd.
If you look closely, you’ll find out that the sheep did only two things in the passage. The first is it got LOST. The second, it ALLOWED ITSELF TO BE CARRIED when it was found by the Shepherd. Neither involved determining to put an end to being bad or doing good works. The sheep knew that it was helpless and could do nothing by itself, as Christ said in John 15:5- “…for without Me you can do nothing.”
Did you also notice that the sheep did not find its way to the Shepherd by itself, as it is written in John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” And there we were thinking that we, in our good sense, decided to forsake sin and follow Jesus when in reality, it was our heavenly Father that made it happen! Knowing this makes it hard for one to condemn others who are yet to receive their invite to God’s table:) Rather, we extend an invite to them to come as they are.
The Shepherd did everything, as He is offering to carry you today. This level of love and compassion a.k.a “the goodness of God” shown to someone who has gone astray is what leads to true repentance. In order for repentance to take place, you need to see how helpless you are without Christ and even this takes God’s grace as we see in the story of Cornelius’ repentance to life in Acts 10-11. Peter’s sermon did not even hint at “Repentance” as the world knows it yet the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard him. But some Jews were aghast at this. How could Peter associate with this Gentile sinner Cornelius? Peter explained what happened and “When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”” Acts 11:18
Repentance is a gift
granted by God!
Repentance to life is not beating your breast in regret for your sins, doing restitution to assuage your guilt and promising God that you will be good. This kind of Judas repentance smacks of self-righteousness (how could “I” have done this?) and leads to death. It also usually comes when a person is suffering the consequences of particular actions, like the prodigal son who went back home because he was hungry and not because he was sorry or loved and missed the Father. Sufferingdoes not lead to true repentance. It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance. Romans 2:4 “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”
The kind of unconditional love that the Father showed to returnee prodigal son is what leads to repentance. Just think what would have happened to the now poor and helpless son if the Father had kicked him out or told him to go and do restitution before coming to Him. He would be worse off! This is why many of our young people don’t like going to church. They see their helplessness but instead of pointing them to the Shepherd who saves, we point them to the Ten Commandments which kills. We tend to forget that if it wasn’t for God’s grace in our lives, we would do worse than these people that God loves so much!
Pastors and leaders, standing at the pulpit and threatening people with curses and judgment for their inability to be righteous by the Ten Commandments (which no one can do) does not lead to repentance. It leads to more sin and death! The letter kills. Unveil Christ’s love expressed in God’s undeserved, unmerited favour and Grace, in the person of our Saviour Jesus, will teach the people to repent to life and live right. See Titus 2. Grace teaches us to live right, not you.
Repentance to life is a gift that only God can grant! But many of us believers do not see how helpless we are and how much we need God’s gift of repentance because His mercy in our lives is so supernaturally natural that we think that we “did good all by ourselves.” We don’t watch porn/steal/fornicate/expose our privates in public, etc so we look down on others who do and tell them to “repent, or else…!” not realising the log in our own eye (everybody sins.) We forget James 2:10 which shows us that all it takes to be guilty of breaking the whole Law is to slip up in one area: without God’s gift of righteousness by faith through Christ, the one who feels relief to learn that it is his neighbour’s house that is on fire afterall and not his own house is in the same boat of unrighteousness as the one who fornicates or molests children- this one does not “love thy neighbour as thyself,” the second greatest commandment under the Law.
This lack of true repentance is why many Christians are quick to judge and condemn others for the things they do instead of encouraging them in Christ and unveiling His love to them as shown in the Parable of the Lost Sheep.
Repentance to death is being ashamed of sins committed because we think they are beneath us; it is making the decision to be “righteous from now on” on our own, forgetting what Paul said in Romans 7:18-
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.”
Repentance to death is trying to set things right with God by our own efforts (like Judas trying to return the money with which he betrayed our Saviour.) It is rejecting the gifts of righteousness and no condemnation that we have in Christ Jesus and looking to ourselves for our righteousness by trying to keep the Ten Commandments in order to get right with God. Believers here only succeed in cutting themselves off from Christ, as it is written in Galatians 5:4 –
“For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.”
There is no Jesus here. No one can sustain that kind of lifestyle on their own. If we could, there would have been no need for Jesus to come and save us.
Repentance to life is a gift from God. It is having a change of heart about God and it comes from knowing the love of Christ. True repentance comes from realising just how much God loves us and that He gave Jesus to die for our sins. It comes from knowing that there is no condemnation for you when you are in Christ; even when you sin and go astray like the sheep, He will carry you and help you with no questions asked, so you get to live right. It is knowing God as “Abba, Father” whose desire is for you to “prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”- 3 John 1:2.
In essence, repentance to life is changing your mind towards God- seeing that we have in Him a loving Father who gives us all things freely (Romans 8:32) and not a Taskmaster who is waiting intently to catch us when we mess things up so He can let the devil have a go at us!
1 John 4: 19 says “We love because He first loved us.” When you start to realise just how much you are loved by our heavenly Father, not only will you have this change of heart to love God, you will also have no desire to return to your vomit! It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance. Romans 2:4.
Notice that the only way the sheep got home was by being carried on the shepherd’s shoulders. Our good works and various fasts can’t take us to heaven or help us fully enjoy God’s blessings here on earth. Only God’s grace can. And all who are in Christ can have it. “…much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Romans 5:17.
Also, no one can snatch the sheep away while it is with the Shepherd – John 10:29-30 – “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”
You can’t lose your salvation when our Abba Father is the one holding you. He will never let you fall. No matter what you do, He will never leave you nor forsake you. He will help you and uphold you with His victorious right Hand. If your salvation depends on how well you keep the Ten Commandments – on you – and not on Christ’s finished work, you’ve already failed!
A little further down in Luke 15 we find the Parable of the Lost Son, aka The Parable of the Prodigal Son. The younger son didn’t remember his father when he still had his inheritance. He did not repent/return home to his father because he was sorry. He returned because he was hungry!
I like to think that he was dirty, hungry and smelling of pigs, an unclean thing to the Jews, when he returned home. Everyone would have done SMH at him. Yet, his Father embraced and kissed him in his ‘pigfully’ unclean state, treating him to the best clothes and the fatted calf. This is the treatment you get when you come to Jesus just the way you are, sins and all! No effort. No trying. He will clean you up and set you up after you have messed everything up.
Why don’t you give up trying to get right with God on your own (repentance to death like Judas!) and just ask our Saviour Jesus for help? In fact, that is why He came – to bear your sins, burdens and judgment. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 – Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” See, it says ALL and not just people who have managed to not “do bad things”. In fact, if you can manage, then you don’t need Jesus.
John 6:37 says “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” I believe that you who are reading this and desire to know more about our wonderful Saviour are being called right now.
Would you like to enjoy God’s Grace and live righteously in Christ Jesus? Please pray this prayer – or even better, just go with your own flow. Like our heavenly Father, we prefer our kids’ badly drawn and typo-filled birthday cards to the fanciest Hallmark card in the world:)
In Jesus’ name, thank you Father for grace to cast all my problems and worries on Jesus. Thank you for He laid down His life for me and by so doing made my sins – past, present and future – forgiven. Thank you for all my sins have been judged in Him. Thank you for now I am free indeed. I believe that He did all these things for me and I am thankful. Thank you for you give me the willingness and the ability to do your good pleasure. Lord, I ask that you take control of my life from this moment on. In Jesus name, it is no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me. Thank you Heavenly Father for saving me, in Jesus name. Amen
Believe Right and you will Live Right!