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Time for repentance
- Jacob Ninan
It has been rightly pointed out by some that until we come to the place where we ask ourselves, "Shall we continue in sin now that we are under grace?" we have not truly understood grace as a favour from God that is entirely independent of our merit. But in turning away from an old covenant based, legalistic, condemning approach to life, some people fantasise grace beyond truth. What they say essentially amounts to a state where we are only to receive everything freely from God, and to do anything from our side is counted as an insult to grace. We cannot do anything to earn grace, but grace will cause us to do certain things. Though there is some truth in what they say, it is not the complete truth.
When we receive this unmerited favour from God, when we see we have been given such a goodness and mercy from God in spite of what we really deserve because of our sins, there will be a corresponding response from our part. Our gratitude to the Lord for what He has done would immediately cause us to decide to live the rest of our life entirely for Him, not serving our desires but seeking to do His will in everything and at all times. If there is no such response, but life continues more or less as usual except for some external changes, we must know that we have not really seen grace. "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age" (Tit.2:11-13). If grace has entered our lives, it will begin to transform our attitudes, understanding, desires, and motives of life, and our external life will also begin to get changed because of this inward transformation.
For example, some 'grace' teachers tell us that if we sin or backslide after we have come to the Lord we should not allow any trace of condemnation or guilt to come to our mind but we should rejoice in the free acceptance that God has given us. They remind us that our acceptance does not depend on our being acceptable to God by our life, but that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners in order to show God's love for us which is unconditional (Ro.5:8). This latter part is true, isn't it? We don't have to allow guilt or shame to condemn us and make us doubt whether God has given up on us or if He still loves us. He has actually promised us that He would never leave or forsake us (He.13:5). But this does not mean that guilt has no purpose.
When we have done wrong, guilt comes to help us to repent (2Co.7:10,11). It helps us to examine what went wrong, why we yielded to temptation, and what the Bible tells us to do in such circumstances, and helps us to seek God for forgiveness and help for the next time. While we should not wallow in despair or doubt after a failure, there needs to be true repentance that can train us for the future. Without this repentance, we will not become stronger to face the next temptation.