Have you ever experienced an “ah-ha moment” about something which, although you kind-of sort-of thought you understood–you might never really have quite gotten the full meaning of?
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise [of final judgment], as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NIV)
I’ve been recently impressed by how faithfully God has answered my prayers–to the point where I’m almost starting to feel like the fisherman and his wife in the folk tale about a couple who caught a magical fish–which, in exchange for its freedom, granted ever-increasing requests until they simply asked for too much and everything returned back to how it had originally been!
It really is amazing how much God loves us–and the lengths He goes to–in order to get our attention and bring us to repentance. Because THAT is the key word–repentance. THAT is what the Christian life is about. Not a daily sackcloth and ashes thing, but a daily turning away from comfortably living in our sins back to Jesus–to longing for Him, fellowshipping with Him, and obeying Him. And it’s unfortunate that this word is frequently relegated to the “before-Christ” period of our lives, because temptation comes daily, and I don’t know about you, but I sometimes give in to it–even to the point that it can threaten to become a stronghold in my life.
Of course, sin looks different in everyone’s life, but I’ve got stuff to repent of. I drive a lot and struggle with tardiness to such a degree that it really is an understatement to say that I frequently–granted with a high degree of discomfort, courtesy of the Holy Spirit convicting me–disregard the speed limits. I feel the need to continue the “business of life” during those extended periods of travel and disregard texting laws to the point that I’m almost a poster child for an accident waiting to happen. I’ve made it a habit to lie down from dinner onward on the loveseat, strategically arranged directly toward the large screen tv–excusing myself that it’s for relaxation, it’s deserved and needed, and it’s not really “tv” because it’s Netflix.
Seriously?! Will any excuse make sense when I’m judged by God?Alternately, you might say, “Wow. What a hypocritical confession–this is nothing!” But the point–that many still don’t get–is that sin is sin. Some hurt others more and we consider them worse than others, but it is all a falling short of God’s glory; regardless of whether society deems my sin big or little, I have sinned against a holy God and need to repent.
So, I admit it–I got it backward. I always thought the answered prayers God keeps giving me, the good things He provides multiple times over and over again, are evidences of His favor on me–not unlike the impression some have that if you’re healthy and rich, you must be special to God. Yet, I don’t think this is quite right. Rather than being a sign that I am somehow more special than the next person, I suspect the blessings God keeps giving are a mercy to me, because I’m not there yet–because He cares enough about me to not want me to perish and I’m excusing the sin in my life rather than repenting of it. He patiently withholds a deserved swift judgment because He does not want any (including me) to perish, but rather, for all to come to repentance.
Most of us know the second half of the first chapter of Romans, but how many of us know the verses at the beginning of the chapter–verse 5, specifically?
“Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.” (Romans 1:5 NIV)
Paul’s God-given commission was “to call all…to the obedience that comes from faith.” Saving faith repents; saving faith obeys.
Still not convinced this means you? Let’s finish up by going through most of the next chapter–and apply it to yourself. Don’t excuse yourself, or say it was meant for someone else, because we all do this stuff; really think about it:
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else [this was written specifically to those Israelites, but it is true for anyone, because we all look down on someone at some point in our life] for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things [maybe not literally always the same things, but we all sin in one way or another]. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth [that there is forgiveness through Christ when we repent] and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.” (Romans 2:1-16 NIV)
So how does this connect with salvation through faith in Christ? True faith leads us to repentance, to a turning away from any sin we are aware of. Our works do not save us–they cannot, because “all our works are as filthy rags” and acceptance and forgiveness is because of Christ alone–but repentance is evidence of our faith. Those who stubbornly continue doing wrong do not appear to have Biblical faith.
Help me not “show contempt for the riches of…[Your] kindness, forbearance and patience;” help me realize “that…[Your] kindness is intended to lead…[me] to repentance.” Amen.