Religion, humankinds self-made path to God, has it backwards. Unfortuneatly, so do we most times, for repentance doesn’t lead to God’s goodness. The reason this is difficult to believe is because it is human nature to hold this style of belief, this human reasoning or intellect so to speak, that we are capable of obtaining righteousness to the extent that God is obligated to bless us (Romans 4:3-5). We believe that in order for God to be good to us, repentance needs to happen. We even believe that if we preach the law, if we tell people to quite sinning to receive blessings, it will result in people repenting. The fact is, the law is the strength of sin.
1 Corinthians 15:56 (KJV): The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
Alongside this belief is the belief that we are capable of changing our behavior, which is the true definition of repentance. Most of us believe that repentance happens when we fall on our knees, crying, asking God for forgiveness. When reality is, repentance is a change in lifestyle that occurs through a change in mindset. Literally, repentance is a change in thought process that results in cessation of specific behavior, or the generation of desired behavior. If the ability to not sin was in us, Jesus would not have had to die on the cross. God’s goodness has been freely given to us through grace. There is nothing we can do to earn it. If we try and earn it, we are not under grace, but the law.
We will see, through God’s Word, that it is God’s goodness that leads to repentance, for it is the result of this knowledge of God’s love that changes our heart, therefore behavior.
When we study the Bible, we can see contrasts between the law and grace. Most people don’t understand that the children of Israel were under the covenant of grace when they were wondering in the desert before they came to Mt. Sinai. If you read, every time they murmured, God blessed them. When they complained about dying by the hands of Pharoh, God parted the Red Sea. When they complained about not having water, God gave them water. When they complained about not having food, God blessed them with food. Every new murmur from the Israelites brought fresh grace from God.
Abraham was righteous through his faith or belief (Genesis 15:6). The Israelites were under Abrahams Covenant, which was the covenant of grace, the same as the New Covenant, or righteousness through faith and belief. This is the covenant God is speaking of in Exodus 19:5, and is not the Ten Commandments, or the law, because it has not been given yet.
Exodus 19:5 (KJV): Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant [Abrahams Covenant], then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
However, the Israelites got prideful. They wanted a covenant based on what they did. Their response is seen in Exodus 19:8:
Exodus 19:8 (KJV): And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.
The Israelites exchanged the covenant of grace with the law. Because of this, they were unholy because nothing they did could earn God’s goodness and righteousness. Their righteousness wasn’t based on their belief in God; it wasn’t based on God’s grace, it was based on how good they were. This is why God, who had been with the Israelites this entire time, had to now separate himself from them (Exodus 19:12-13). No one, not even an animal, could touch the mountain God was on.
The law doesn’t bring repentance. It brings sin and leads to death. God’s goodness, His grace, is what leads us to repentance. We will now look at Luke 18 and 19 to see the difference. I don’t believe Luke 18 and 19 are in chronological order, but divine order. I believe they were placed next to one another for a reason.
In Luke 18:18, a rich young ruler asked how he could obtain eternal life. Jesus could have said he just needed to believe. But He didn’t. Jesus actually preached the law. Jesus told him not to commit adultery, not to kill, steal, bear false witness, and to honor thy mother and father. The ruler said he has kept all of them. But Jesus shed light where the young ruler was lacking: money. Jesus told him to go and sell all his possessions and give to the poor. The ruler had not kept the first commandment, for his god was money. The ruler left very sorrowful. Jesus knew that the ruler had to reach despair to realize his need for a Savior. And that is what the law does; it shows us our need for a Savior. Jesus preached the law and it did not lead to repentance, more likely condemnation.
In contrast, we will look at Luke 19, the story of Zacchaeous. Zacchaeous was a short man (for all have fallen short! 😀 ), and he was a tax collector who cheated and robbed people of their money. He was the perfect sinner in the eyes of everyone. So you would think that this would be the man who Jesus would preach the law at. But he didn’t. Instead, Jesus went to his home and had dinner with Zacchaeous. He spent time with him. He was intimate with him. Zacchaeous got to know Jesus. Zacchaeous got to know God’s goodness. And what was the result?
Luke 19:8 (KJV): And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. (9) And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
Zacchaeous not only gave what he had, he restored what he cheated and stole FOURFOLD! Zacchaeous experienced God’s goodness, and true repentance took place, therefore salvation, gaving new life to one of the towns worst sinners.
Our last example will be Luke 5, when Peter met Jesus. Peter had not caught a single fish after “toiling all night”. Jesus told him to cast his nets out into the deep. Peter did and they literally caught not just one boat-sinking load of fish. but two boat-sinking loads of fish! And what do you think was Peters reaction?
Luke 5:8 (KJV): When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
Simon Peter saw the goodness of God, and it lead him to repentance. Jesus didn’t preach the law to him. He didn’t tell him he had to quit sinning first. Jesus didn’t even call out his sin. Jesus showed him grace, His unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor, and that led Peter to fall to his knees and repent. God’s goodness literally changed Peters life.
It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance. It is grace. Nothing more. If you preach grace, God’s goodness, repentance will happen naturally.
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