(Isaiah 55:6-7) “Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.”
Today within wider Christendom in the western democracies there is a lot of emphasis in many Churches regarding spiritual renewal and refreshing and many saying that God is doing a new thing, whatever they really mean by that? There are many pastors and church leaders whose church fellowships are into all sorts of miracles, signs and wonders. You have unbiblical manifestations of one sort or another. You have things like glory clouds, gold dust, floating white feathers, smoke machines, rock style bands with strobe lighting, grace soaking and destiny tarrot card readings and a string of so called ‘personal’ prophecies as long as your arm being uttered that God has had nothing to do with.
We saw an example of this recently with a myriad of false prophets telling their congregations and propagating on their websites and videos on the internet that the Lord had personally told them that President Trump would be re-elected but their so called ‘predictions’ did not eventuate. Scripture is clear about those whose personal prophecies do not come true. They are false prophets. (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)
For some time now within wider Christendom there has been a growing emphasis on wealth, health, having it good in this world and seeking sensational types of spiritual experiences and ‘manifestations’ that appeal to the emotions and the desires of the flesh but do very little if anything for the sanctification of the soul. It is the age of seeker sensitive, seeker friendly fellowships and of Kingdom Dominion and new apostles and prophets. It is the age of Alpha and Purpose Driven programmes. It is an age of building projects and a time when theological colleges, for the most part, have moved away from the final authority of God’s Word. Psychology has been filtering down through many theological cemeteries, I mean seminaries.
Multitudes of sermons are being preached in many churches that “scratch itching ears” and give the people what they want to hear but very few being given what they need to hear. In many cases it is not so much what they are teaching is wrong in itself or even unbiblical for that matter, but it is in what they are failing to teach that is the problem. Many are not preaching “the whole counsel of God.” Today many so called ‘apostles’ and ‘prophets’ are prophesying “seasons of refreshing” from the Lord in heaven but there is still no revival within western Christendom!
There is “the missing word” in most church setups today and that is the word “Repentance.” Now we are not speaking about trying to put guilt trips on believers and there are some churches that do this and think they are bringing people to repentance, but inevitably in their striving they are seeking to do the work that only the Holy Spirit can do. The blessed Holy Spirit Himself is the only one that can convict those within and without Christendom, about sin, the need for righteousness and of the coming judgement. (John 16:8-9)
Now repentance has two sides to it. There is a turning away from all that we know to be sinful and wrong in God’s sight and turning to embrace all that we know to be good and righteous in His sight. We change our way of thinking from a Messiah hating, Messiah rejecting way of life to a Messiah loving, Messiah accepting way of life. It does involve the emotions but it is the action of the will that is the key factor in repentance. We cannot repent of course unless the blessed Holy Spirit gives us the capacity to repent but He will not do the repenting for us. That we must do for ourselves.
Repentance is not just a one off spiritual exercise but one that continues throughout the Christian life as the Holy Spirit will bring to light our past sins as well as the present ones, not to condemn us, but that we might be freed from their power and hold over us and the guilt it entails. Repentance then, is primarily an action of the will and a desire to repent, or if we lack a deep desire for it, to ask God to make us willing to be made willing to repent. Without repentance there can be no seasons of spiritual refreshing from the Lord. As it is written; “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)
Whether it was George Whitfield, John Wesley, Charles Finney, D.L. Moody or William Booth and many others God has used, they all gave men the Law of God before they gave them the grace of God. God’s laws, empowered by the Spirit of God, shows men the spiritual wretchedness of their hearts deep down on the inside, and that without the atoning blood of the Messiah, and without faith in Him alone to save their souls from hell and ultimately the lake of fire, they cannot be saved. God’s laws and commandments are perfect and good and God never intended fallen man to be saved by trying to keep them, but to drive men and women to the Lord Jesus as their sin bearer in order to have their sins forgiven and cleansed by His atoning blood and freed from its power in their lives. (Galatians 3:24) (Ephesians 1:7) (Revelation 1:5b)
Now let’s turn to this Bible passage in the prophet Isaiah to understand Biblically what it means to repent of sin, to be set free from its power and to experience those seasons of refreshing from the Lord’s presence.
Firstly, we are told to “Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.”
There are times in our walk as a believer in the Lord Jesus when the blessed Holy Spirit will reveal to us some current sin or bring to light some sin from the last that we have not asked God to forgive us for. Often these past sins that have not been confessed and forsaken will hinder our relationship with the Lord Jesus. When we become conscious of something we have failed to confess then we need to deal with it there and then because the Lord is near. Once we have confessed it and asked Him to empower us to turn from it, we have that assurance that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” As He has also promised; “Their sins and iniquities (their past rebellious acts) I will remember no more.” As we seek Him He will reveal Himself to us. When we draw near to Him in repentance He will draw near to us. (James 4:7-8)
This seeking the Lord is not a one off experience but an ongoing spiritual discipline that we must acquire if we would make progress in our walk with the Lord. We need to seek Him and keep it up and not get tired or weary until He has brought about the deliverance we know we desperately desire. Added to this, we must also call on His name in our seeking realising that without His enabling grace, we cannot seek Him in the way He wants us to seek Him. His name can do anything He can do! “What is impossible with men is possible with God” because “all things are possible with God for those who believe!” As it is also written, “the name of the Lord is a high tower and the righteous runs into it and is safe.”
Secondly, we are told; “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts.”
The Bible says that “as a man thinks in his heart so he will be in his actions” because “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Unusually you can tell what lies in abundance within a person’s heart by what comes out of their mouth in conversation because “out of the heart flow the issues of life.” As it is also written; “The power of life and death are in the tongue.” When we repent there must not only be a drawing near to God when He is drawing near to us but also the willingness on our part to forsake our wicked way and our evil thinking.
The Bible teaches that we have two natures as a believer and that these two natures war with each other deep down on the inside of us. We have God’s nature if we have the Holy Spirit but also our sinful fallen nature we have to deal with on a daily basis and these two natures are constantly in conflict with each other. (Galatians 5:16-17) (Romans 7:14-25) This is why we need the Holy Spirit as He is the only one who can give us the victory over the desires and appetites of the flesh. (Romans 8: 1-14) It has been said that the nature we feed the most is the one that will control us. Our thought life is what must be governed by the Holy Spirit and at times we will battle the demons of hell in this area because if Satan can get control of our thought life then he can disable us spiritually and turn us aside from following the Lord Jesus with all of our heart.
Thirdly, we are told; “And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.”
In the work of repentance there is a turning away and a turning to. We turn away from what we know to be wrong and displeasing to God and turn to what we know to be right and is pleasing to God. We practice repentance because we want to be pleasing to the Lord Jesus. He said “If you love Me you will keep my commandments, and they will not be a burden to you… because My yoke is easy and my burden is light and you will find rest for your souls.” If we have backslidden then we need to return to the Lord and seek His face and we will find there no condemnation, but a heart full of compassion and a willingness to abundantly pardon. God is not measly when it comes to pardoning repentant ‘sinners’ but will do it with abundance. One ‘sinner’ who repents sends the angels in heaven into the euphoria of an unbridled joy. (Luke 15:10)
Think of the prodigal son. He had spent everything on a life of sin and debauchery and in his desperation and destitution decided to return home without any pre-conditions. When his father saw him far off in the distance walking down that dry dusty road he ran out to meet him and embraced him and following that the family feast came and the re-instatement of his son who was lost but was now found. I guess every day that father had been looking down that dusty road to the horizon to see if or when his son would return. Such is the heart of God towards those who truly repent with a willingness to turn from all that displeases the Lord.
You know God is more willing to pardon and to cleanse us and deliver us from sin’s grip than we are willing to forsake it. The atoning blood of the Messiah says it all. The Blood of the Messiah our Lord Jesus has not only fully and forever atoned for our sin and rebellion, but also cleanses us from all sin and unrighteousness and will keep cleansing us as we walk moment by moment by faith in the light of God’s Word. (1 John 1:7-9) As the apostle Paul wrote; “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
We all have regrets in life and we cannot change the past. However, when a Godly sorrow for our past and present sins is expressed to the Lord we will find deliverance and a God who abundantly pardons and who says to us, “I will restore the years that the locusts have eaten!” (Joel 2:25)