When Leaders Repent . . . and what we can learn from them

repentance2

Just under a year ago I wrote a piece amidst another homeschool scandal called When Leaders Fall.. and what we can learn from them. I encourage you to go read it HERE and share it with your children, family and church. We live in a fallen world and how we respond to these issues can be vital to our Christian witness and influential to the spiritual development of our children.

This week past news of Josh Duggar and his resignation at Family Research Council has been in the forefront of headlines. Everyone has an opinion. I’ve read some pretty incredible responses against this sweet family. I’ve also seen support, grace and love extended toward everyone involved. Matt Walsh (The Duggars Aren’t Hypocrites) and Todd Friel (The Duggar Disaster)  both have great insight to this issue. And quite frankly, I didn’t believe there was much that could be added to the discussion.

There has been plenty of talk on sin and judgment. I have heard biblical phrases like “he who is without sin cast the first stone” and “be sure your sins will find you out” touted all over the internet by Christians and non-Christians alike.  But I haven’t read a lot on repentance. So let me offer a perspective that perhaps you haven’t considered.

First off, what happened this week to the Duggar family has nothing to do with a Christian man falling into sin. Josh was a young boy whose past was exceeding sinful and yet he found God’s grace and mercy. He repented, confessed, sought forgiveness and moved on with his life. This story is really about the people who sought after and dug up news in an effort to destroy the witness and gospel message that this family has long stood for.  Those that oppose the gospel message will always seek to destroy the messengers.  Those that oppose Christ will always seek to destroy His followers. None of this is surprising. It is certainly sad … but not surprising.

So nothing further can really be said to those who are blind to God’s grace.  They do not understand it. Christ said he came, “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Act 26:18). Until that happens they will always oppose truth and truth bearers.

While the Duggar story really is a separate issue, let me speak to Christians – Christ-followers -The Church who is the pillar and ground of the truth. If we do not respond correctly to repentance, we are not following Christ’s example. Let me repeat that for emphasis.

If we (as believers) fail to respond correctly to those who repent, we are not following Christ’s example.

Think about the vast references on repentance throughout God’s Word.

  • The prophets proclaimed it.  (Ezek 14:6,18:30)
  • John the Baptist preached it.  (Matt 3:2, 3:8)
  • Jesus’ first message was repent.  (Matt 4:17, Luke 13:3)
  • He told the disciples to preach repentance.  (Mark 6:12)
  • God commands man everywhere to repent.  (Acts 17:30)
  • And He warns the churches to repent. (Rev 2:5, 2:16, 2:21-22, 3:3, 3:19)

Can I make a point that really shouldn’t have to be made? There would be no need for repentance if we were all perfect.  This sinful, fallen world needs a Savior. This is the reason the prophets proclaimed it and Christ preached it. It is also the reason that those who have already received it tell others about it.

Even after we are saved and become new creatures, (redeemed and imputed with His righteousness) there is still a need for daily repentance. We do not repent unto salvation for that is no longer necessary (Hebrews 6:1-6).  But true believers do repent when we sin and seek the Lords forgiveness as a part of our sanctification. Those who walk in the light cannot continue to walk in darkness (1 John 3:7-9). They can , however, fall into darkness. But note that they do not stay there.

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ..My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1Jn 1:9, 2:1-2)

This brings up a valid point of what to do when Christian men or women fall into sin. After all, believers will fall. We are sinful creatures. Yes, we strive. Yes, we have the spirit of God working in our lives. Yes, we are called to be holy, but until we are glorified and one day become just like Him (1 John 3:2) we will always fight sin. The Apostle Paul was transparent about his sin nature. He wrote, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (Rom 7:18-20).

Understanding this sinful state that even believers find themselves dealing with, he states, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Rom 7:24) And then boldly proclaims, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” I can state as Paul, I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Without Him and His love, mercy and forgiveness where would we all be?

So what then? What happens when a Christian repents? Let’s look to King David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14) who as leader fell into great sin.  If you are unfamiliar with the story you can read about it in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. David sinned against God by committing adultery with Bathsheba and attempting to cover it up by having her husband killed. God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David and he repented. As you read the story you find that even after he repented, he still faced the consequences of his sins. He sons died. His kingdom was torn away from him. His family was shattered. People were hurt. This is what sin does – it destroys lives and brings death. And every one is prone to it.  But that is not the end of the story. David’s kingdom was restored. God was exalted. David’s second son with Bathsheba replaced his father as king and is used to build God’s temple.  How does God respond to true repentance? He forgives and uses it for His glory!

God uses our sins, mistakes, failures and ugly past for His glory. David understood that. David was going to make sure that he used his past to teach others. Don’t miss this! He used his past for God’s glory. Read David’s repentant prayer recorded in Psalm 51.

 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

But David does not stop there. In verse 13 he said, Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. (Psa 51:13)  Did you catch that? David was saying that after he fell into sin and repented, God forgave him.  Now he was going to use his testimony to teach others about the dangers of sin. When we are right before God, our hearts desire is to teach others. Why? Because we are filled with such love from God’s mercy and forgiveness that we greatly desire for others to experience the same.

When leaders humbly repent we can learn from them.

  • Let it serve as a reminder of our great need for a Saviour.
  • Let is serve as a reminder of the dangers and consequences of sin.
  • Let it serve as a reminder to respond as Christ responds to those who truly repent.

On a personal note: I thank God daily for my salvation, but let me tell you that I’m in the process of being sanctified and it is a process.  My Lord is constantly working on me, changing me, molding me and shaping me into His image.  I have a long way to go, but I press on nevertheless.  I believe the key is striving – striving to be like Him. Of course I fall into sin on occasion, but my heart’s desire is to run from sin and to cling to my Lord. May we all be constantly pursuing holiness in spite of this sinful flesh and dark, dark world we live in.

Guilt ….Good or Bad?

guiltI did not pack enough bags for this guilt trip! I am not to blame and will certainly not feel bad about this! I wish they would stop making me feel so guilty. Have you ever said these words or had these thoughts? It is likely that if you are over the age of 3 that you have. No one likes to feel guilty. It’s an ugly feeling that starts in the bottom of your stomach and lingers until resolved. Sometimes we bring it on ourselves. Sometimes it is others in our life that seems content to constantly push guilt and shame our way. It is in these moments in life when a single word or look, like a sharp knife, slices thorough our emotions only to leave a sinking feeling of culpability behind.

Seeing that guilt leaves such an ugly mark, one would think that it is a bad thing, bad indeed and something to be avoided at all cost.

But is it all terrible? Can guilt be beneficial? Is it good or is it bad? The answer is yes.

The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”

What things do you think Paul had to forget?  Was it his accomplishments in the flesh before salvation?  Maybe so.  After all he was a Pharisee of all Pharisees.  But just maybe it was his past sins.  After all, I can only imagine the guilt of his past must have plagued him. Maybe those things that were behind him were the memories of the many Christians that suffered and died at his own hands.  We all know how easy it is to feel guilty about past sins.  God forgives and forgets.  We try to, but yet Satan never does. The enemy loves to bring our faults and failures back up to us. It is this type of guilt that is bad, guilt from our past that has already been forgiven.

 But some guilt is necessary. The law of God makes the unbeliever guilty. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God,” Romans 3:19.

 Likewise, when a believer sins it is accompanied with guilt. “For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me. For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin,” Psalm 38:17-18.  This type of guilt is good. It is a necessary emotion given to us by God.  Picture it as a “check engine light” on the dashboard of your car.  It brings to your attention a problem under the hood.  It should be used to help us acknowledge our sins.  It should drive us to repentance.  But once we have done that we need to leave our guilt at the cross.

 Here is a sure way to tell if guilt is good or bad. Bad guilt – the kind that we need to let go of – will always push us away from God. It brings shame and makes us self focused. It hinders our spiritual walk and makes us ineffective for the Kingdom. However, be sure that good, godly, healthy guilt will drive us strait to the arms of God as His mercy and grace floods our hearts.

Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Biblical Discernment in a World of False Teaching – Part Two

The Gospel Message without Repentance

Last summer I heard a man preach on 4 separate nights.  Each night the gospel was reduced to “Believe and Receive.”  Not once was the notion of repenting proclaimed.  I was shocked and saddened.  Why would a man of God leave out such an important element to the gospel?

Didn’t the forerunner of Christ have a message of repentance?  “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Matthew 3:1-2.

When Christ began to preach didn’t He preach repentance?  “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Matthew 4:17.

Wasn’t the Apostles sent out by Christ with the message of repentance?  “And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two…And they went out, and preached that men should repent,” Mark 6:7,12.

Does not God command all men to repent?  “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent,” Act 17:30.

Why then would we leave such an important element out?   Some would say it’s too offensive.  Others would say it’s not a big deal.  And some would state it just doesn’t matter.  But let me ask, do we have a better gospel than Christ?  Do we know more than the Apostles?  Is God’s command to repent not relevant for today?  Perhaps the reason repentance is left out is because it makes no sense to preach repentance unless you preach about the wrath of God.  “For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:” (Col 3:6) And many simply refuse to preach this.  But sadly, it is equivalent to refusing to warn a blind that he is about to walk off a cliff.  Or, you could compare it to a doctor refusing to tell a dying patient just how serious his condition is.  Some will claim that they do not want to preach in a negative light due to the offense it causes.  But, we must ask ourselves, how much more offended will man be when it is too late.

Repentance is very important.  It fact, without it a person cannot be saved.   To repent is to turn from our sins and to God.  It is more than just being sorry.  Did you know that you can be sorry for your sins without repenting of them?  Look at Paul’s address to the Corinthian church, “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death,” 2 Corinthians 7:9-10.

The gospel without repentance is a false and dangerous gospel. Because of it there are a lot of professing Christians who have never repented or turned from their sins.  They are false converts because they heard a false gospel.  They still walk in darkness because they have never turned from their sins.  Jesus said, “I tell you…except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” Luke 13:3.  Those who preach a watered-down gospel without repentance will one day answer for leading many astray.