Editor's Note: Every Sunday, DrydenWire.com publishes a submitted article in a weekly series from Pastor Brian Cole. If you would have a question for Brian or would like to learn more about him, visit his website or his official Facebook page.
Gen. 44:1-34 - Repentance & Forgiveness - Part 3
So let me end this message by defining what repentance is: Repentance is the recognition of our sins which results in the kind of sorrow that brings about change in our intellect, emotions, and will. (The soul). In other words, repentance recognizes sin and is genuinely sorry for it, so much so that this sin will be shunned and a new course of action will be sought.
Here’s the principle in the drawn out dealings of Joseph in the lives of his brothers: there can be NO reconciliation without genuine repentance. This is what caused Joseph to delay so long in revealing his identity to his brothers. If there were to be true unity in this family, there must first be true reconciliation. And that reconciliation would not come before his brothers experienced and evidenced biblical repentance.
Let’s look at a couple illustrations of repentance in the NT: (Luke 15:11-32) The prodigal son sinned by demanding his inheritance and spending it all on the party lifestyle. He eventually paid the price and suffered the consequences of his sin. His regrets while in the pig pen eventually turned to repentance. He there realized the foolishness of his sins and yearned for fellowship with his father, even as a hired servant! He then came to his senses and returned home to his father, not seeking justice, but mercy, and his father took him back.
THIS is Biblical repentance. Genuine sorrow for sin that brought about a change in his thinking AND actions! He forsook his sins and returned to his father, who gladly received him back.
The rich young ruler, on the other hand, came to Jesus in order to gain salvation without changing his values, priorities, or lifestyle. He went away sorry, but not repentant OR saved, because he couldn’t part with his old way of life (Matt. 19:16-22).
Zaccheus, on the other hand, evidenced genuine repentance and conversion when he sought to make right the sins of his past (Luke 19:1-10).
And let me be bold enough to say that you and I would not have gone through such lengths to restore our fallen brothers as Joseph did. Why would I say that? I fear that we have too little appreciation for the Biblical doctrine of repentance. We don’t think it’s necessary, nor do we seek to help produce it in the lives of others.
In the preaching of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:2), our Lord (Matt. 4:17, etc), and the apostles (Mark 6:12, Acts 2:38, 17:30, 20:21, 26:20), repentance was an inseparable part of the message of the Gospel.
So why is it not so important to us? Why don’t most people make it part of the Gospel we proclaim? Maybe it's due to a misconception of the grace of God?
In Rom. 7 we see the agony of a man who is not living as he should, or even as he desires, but he does not love his sin; he hates it! And his agony originates in his hatred of sin and his desire to do right. There is a repentant spirit which must exist in us.
As Paul would have us know from the book of Romans, repentance is a great start, but it is not enough. Our recognition of sin and a corresponding desire to reverse our actions is definitely a prerequisite to righteous living, but there is even more than that! We must also find a new source of ability! The wonderful news of the grace of God is that He has not only made provision for our salvation, but He also made a provision for our sanctification!
Wretched people that we are, who will set us free from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh, the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 7:24-8:4).
Joseph’s dealings with his brothers have a great deal of application to us today. For those who have never come to faith in Christ, there is an illustration of salvation. God, like Joseph, desires to pour out upon men, whom He loves, the riches which are His to give. But men cannot be blessed until their sin has been dealt with.
To Joseph’s brothers, this Egyptian governor was all-wise and all-powerful, but harsh and to be feared. Yet to us, he was a loving brother whose tears revealed his heart and his desires. In order to bring his brothers to repentance, Joseph had to put them to the test and make their lives appear to be in danger.
But when they recognized themselves as sinners deserving of any sentence Joseph had to pronounce upon them, repentance was realized, and Joseph was free to reveal himself to be a loving brother, not a vengeful master. If you’ve never come to recognize your sin, forsake it, and to confess it before God, then you, like Joseph’s brothers, will always only look upon God with dread and fear. But once you realize your sins and the rightful penalty that should be yours - once you come to God, NOT to barter and bargain for blessings, but to cast yourself upon His mercy - then you will come to see the other side of God.
He is a loving Father who desires to pour out His blessings upon you. He wants to save you and to enable you to live a life that is pleasing to Him. Regretting your sins and their consequences in your life is not enough. That sorrow for sin must turn to a hatred of sin, a desire to turn from it, and a dependence upon God for forgiveness from sin and freedom from its power.
Jesus Christ has come to earth, fully God and fully man. He has taken upon Himself the penalty for your sins. He offers you the kind of righteousness which God requires for salvation and eternal life. If you will acknowledge your sins, turn from them, and trust in the Savior God has provided, then you will be born again. You can be restored to fellowship with God just as Joseph’s brothers could once again have a relationship with their brother.
For Christians, we must be reminded that repentance is a vital aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s not a popular doctrine, as you well know. It’s a dimension of the Gospel that is often omitted, thinking that it will be easier to save souls if we leave it out. But salvation WILL NOT and CAN NOT happen without it!
Acts 2:38 - “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ FOR the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”
Acts 17:30-31 - “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.”
Acts 20:21 - “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.”
Acts 26:20 - “First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and DEMONSTRATE their repentance by their DEEDS!”
2 Cor. 5:18-21 - “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.”
Once we are saved, the need for repentance is NOT over. The way salvation is had is also the way it continues:
Col. 2:6 - “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him...”
I believe this to be part of what Paul meant in the book of Romans when he said: “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
The process which begins at conversion is an ongoing one. As we daily present ourselves to God, we should be learning more of His mind and become aware of His truths, as well as being convicted of transgression of which we might not have been aware of before.
John called this “walking in the light as He is in the light.” (John 1:7).
We should continually be experiencing the renewal of our mind which should result in renouncing the ways of darkness and walking in the light which we have been given. Repentance, in this sense, will go throughout our lives until we have, in His presence, been transformed into full conformity with Him. Unfortunately, in ALL of us, there will come times of willful disobedience. Our feet will slip, and we will sin in ways we know we should not. In times like these, repentance must also be found in order for full fellowship and intimacy with God to be appreciated and experienced.
Rev. 2:4-5 - “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”
For both believers and unbeliever alike, repentance is a step beyond recognition of sin and the regret of its consequences; it is the ACTING upon the decision to turn from sin to Him who is sinless and whose WAY is that of righteousness. It is turning from our sins and our “self-effort” and relying upon our Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness and enablement.
The Apostle Paul describes this step beyond regret in his Epistle to the Corinthians, and should be our guide:
2 Cor. 7:8-12 - “For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while—I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you, what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you it was not for the sake of the offender, nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God.”