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Archive for February, 2015

true_repentance

Repent and Believe

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation. We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us. We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:17-21)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

This Ash Wednesday as the priest placed ashes on my forehead and said to me, “repent and believe”, I felt the Lord leading me to share with you some of the thoughts the Holy Spirit has been dealing with me on exactly those themes.

As a son of the Catholic Church I am blessed to be part of a community for which coming to “repentance” is a blessing which has permitted me not only enter and continue my spiritual growth within the community but, because of my ability to express my “repentance” through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, has also opened the doors to a deeper intimacy with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in enabling me to experience a continuing Heavenly Presence in my spirit through my frequent participation in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

I have been saddened, however, because in my ecumenical apostolate I interact with some of my brothers and sisters who are not catholic and with whom the term “repent” has a somewhat negative sensitivity. Now, I love and respect these brothers and sisters very much because I know they are “in Christ” through conversion and Baptism and are very immersed in putting the Word of God to action in their lives. However, I notice that a certain few of these brethren have a skewed understanding of just what “repentance” entails they find it difficult to let the Grace of Repentance do its full work in their spiritual lives and thus limits them in proclaiming the “Good News” of Repentance and Forgiveness to others.

From their point view, repentance is a one-time act that occurs at conversion when one responds in faith to the proclamation of the crucified Jesus, the son of the Living God as the atoning sacrifice for our sins and those of all mankind. In their manner of thinking we have all been reconciled by Christ’s atoning work on the cross, so once we are in Christ why do we need to concern ourselves further with “reconciliation” if God has already reconciled the world to Himself?

One of the things that they overlook is that even though the Father has reconciled the world to Himself, the fullness of that reconciliation cannot be fulfilled until the other party accepts that offer of reconciliation through repantance, by saying, “I’m sorry, I accept your forgiveness”. That is what our repentance accomplishes.

LeadsYoutoRepentance1These brothers and sisters in Christ that I interact with, apparently do not comprehend that true repentance is not a “work” of man, it is, in reality, a work of grace, in that it is the Holy Spirit at work in us to bring us to the awareness of our break in fellowship with God and the need to ask forgiveness for our transgressions. It is NOT something we do to merit the Father’s forgiveness, rather it is an act of faith to access the eternal forgiveness for sin that was paid for by Jesus’ Death on the Cross. Our repentance can be likened to the good thief who was crucified at Jesus’ side who in his act of repentance said to Jesus, “…. remember me when you come into your kingdom” or the like the woman with a flow of blood who, when she stretched out her hand to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, He said to her… “your faith has saved you”.

“True repentance” is merely the grace of our Baptism continuing its work in our lives so that each day we may reach out and access the grace of salvation, the atonement for our sins that Jesus died for, and whose forgiveness is in the Father’s storehouse of Grace in the eternal realm. Repentance is an act of faith to access the forgiveness we need at the moment we become aware that we need forgiveness.

In other words, repentance is merely our acknowledgement that we need God in our lives and that the life we are living at the moment is separating us from Him. Repentance is any word or action we take to turn to God for help in accessing His forgiveness and returning to Him. It is like the decision taken by the “prodigal son” when he became aware of his dire situation in a pig sty, who said to himself, “I don’t belong here, I will return to my father’s house even if I have to be a servant to my father”.

Although we have all been reconciled to the Father through the sacrifice of His Son and His Resurrection, we can only receive that grace of reconciliation through Faith – and repentance is the expression of faith that accesses the Father’s forgiveness. It is the act that Paul was referring to when he exhorted the Corinthian community to “be reconciled with God”. In that same letter He had already told them that the Father had “reconciled the world to Himself” through the sacrifice of His Son and in his letter to the Romans He also said that “… there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ”, so, what could he have meant by exhorting them to “be reconciled”, unless he was exhorting them to bring their repentance up to date by repenting for your sins up to “today”?

In further explanation regarding repentance, listen to what Paul continues to say to the Corinthians:

“…we entreat also that you not receive the grace of God in vain, for he says, ‘at an acceptable time I listened to you, In a day of salvation I helped you’. Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6: 1-2)

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“… now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.…” (2Cor.7:9-11)

Yes, “Today is the Day of Salvation” for all of us, because repentance, in order to be sincere, is necessarily tied to each of our “todays”. This is so because we humans cannot sincerely repent of our future sins, only our past and present sins can be truly repented at any moment in time. For our repentance, in order to be truly sincere in godly sorrow, it can only be valid in each of our “todays”.

That is why, regarding the Great Commission”, Jesus told his disciples to preach the Good News of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins to the whole world …

…saying to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-48)

And Peter, himself, in fulfilling the command of the Lord, told the crowd at Pentecost to “repent and believe” so that they, themselves, could then be empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Kingdom of God.

This Jesus God raised up, to which we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted by the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this, which you now see and hear. For David didn’t ascend into the heavens, but he says himself, “The Lord said to my Lord Sit by my right hand, Until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

 “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ 8Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized’, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and [then] you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all who are far off, even as many as the Lord our God will call tohimself.” (Acts 2:32-39)

Cheap Grace or Costly Grace?

Dieterich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor and theologian in Germany who died for his faith under Hitler’s Nazi rule, contrasted “cheap grace” and “costly grace”.

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves… the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance… grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate… Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”

God invites each of us as his friends to his heavenly banquet that we may celebrate with him and share in his joy. Are you ready to feast at the Lord’s banquet table?

“Lord Jesus, may I always know the joy of living in your presence and grow in the hope of seeing you face to face in your everlasting kingdom.”

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If this brief proclamation has stirred you awareness, let us, then, use this time of Lent as a time of quiet mediation on the Word of God, asking the Holy Spirit make us aware of the places in our lives where we have to yield to Him in repentance so that we may be formed as useful instrument for His purposes and Glory.

Praised Be His Holy Name!

 Your Brother and fellow servant in Christ … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2015])

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