Sunday, 10 January 2016

Realistic repentance

Hosea 6:1 is a remarkable description of repentance by an inspired preacher who wanted his wayward listeners to turn to God. So here are some thoughts about it connected to the sermon I preached earlier today.
Repentance and faith are said to be heavenly twins. So we can ask, ‘Where is the expression of faith in verse 1?’ I would suggest it is in the word ‘come’ because here we have what we can call the logic of faith. Biblical faith holds on to the astonishing fact that the God of judgement is also the God of grace, that the God who is angry with their sins can be approached in a repentant manner. A penitent person grasps the fact that he can draw near to God through Christ.
This description of repentance also tells us that a penitent person recognises the purposes of God’s judgements, that they are designed in heavenly wisdom to bring sinners to repentance. As Hosea says, the Lord tore them, as a lion would tear a sheep, in order to come to them as the heavenly Physician. And we know that Jesus was the Physician who called sinners to repentance.
At the same time, a penitent person sees God in the judgements and deduces from them that he can help. The power of God displayed in judgements can also be displayed in recovering those who repent. And the faithfulness of God revealed in bring those judgements can also be revealed in his promise to restore the penitent. And they experience his power and faithfulness as they lean on Jesus.

Such repentance is how a person returns to God. We can imagine an Israelite saying to himself, ‘What I need to do is change my life and try and keep the Ten Commandments.’ But that is not a description of repentance because it is an attempt to get right without dealing with God. Instead, a true penitent wants to go and speak with God, and confess his sins, knowing that the Lord will show mercy for the sake of Jesus.

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