To Follow Jesus
My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.
July/August 2015 Issue – Pursued by Grace, ‘I know that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love’ (Jonah 4:2)
The text set for today’s reading and meditation:
Jonah1:12 (NIVUK): ‘“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”’
Today’s study, starts as follows: “Yesterday we saw that though Jonah was not willing to go to Nineveh, he was willing to be thrown overboard. He was willing to do anything except the right thing – repent.
We pause here to look at what repentance really is. As frequent readers will recognise, the word ‘repent’ in Greek is metanoia, which means a ‘change of mind’ or ‘an about turn’.”
The key test for true repentance is, ‘has there been a change in behaviour?’ No change of mind and heart – means – no repentance has occurred.
I once went to a lecture given by a Rabbi, who was addressing a number of Christians on Jewish/Christian relationships. He said, that he had heard many people say that they were sorry for the Holocaust genocide. But, he added, their sorrow can only be demonstrated as genuine if such an event did not occur again. He was saying, in effect, there needed to be evidence that they had a change of heart and totally denounced anti-Semitism, in all it forms.
To trespass, is to cross over a line that we should not cross; we may express sorrow and regret over the transgression for a variety of reasons – a common one is the embarrassment of being found in the wrong place. Now, our apology to the offended party, can only be meaningful if we never cross that line again – that is, there has been a change of heart and the reasons for trespass no longer have any attraction for us.
In summary, there may be sorrow and apologies given because an action or word has caused harm and hurt; yet, repentance involves change, driven by our hatred of the sin and what it does to the heart of our loving God.
I’m of the view that many Christians do not fully understand the difference between regret, sorrow and repentance. The reason I say this is that I’ve seen many cases where a person has said, something like: “I’m very sorry that I’ve done something, which has upset you.” But, over time they keep repeating the same type of behaviour – there has been no repentance; and they seem blind to their on-going sinfulness.
Selwyn provides us with a concise conclusion: “Penance without repentance is mere self-punishment. Perhaps that is what Jonah wanted to do – he wanted to provide his own atonement. Penance has a place in the Christian life but it always comes after repentance – never before it.”
This is an issue, which everyone should stand before God’s throne (on a regular basis) and seek His discernment about. Is there an area in your life where you need to establish a change of behaviour because of sin? If so, seek the Holy Spirit’s help to instil in you, a change of heart and mind.