Making Practical Repentance Difficult!

Making Practical Repentance Difficult

Making Practical Repentance Difficult!

Richard Hollerman

Most of us have some idea about what repentance is and implies. The noun metanoia means “afterthought, change of mind, repentance,” and the verb metanoeo literally means “to perceive afterward” (W. E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). In the New Testament it signifies “to change one’s mind or purpose” and it involves “a change for the better, an amendment” (W. E. Vine, p. 525). William D. Mounce explains further, “Both noun and verb denote a radical, moral turn of the whole person from sin to God” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words).

It is one thing to define these Greek words and understand them, but it is another thing to put repentance into practice! How do we apply this to our life and how do we deal with the difficulties that this brings to us?

I am convinced that many people—surely most people—take a perspective and do things that would make repentance in their life difficult! In other words, we do many things that make God’s requirement in our life to be even more difficult than it would need to be. Repentance may be difficult but because we place ourselves into very compromising, sinful, and involved circumstances, we make it even more thorny to repent—and, beyond this, to make restitution!

Do you find this concept difficult in itself? Probably the best thing we can do is to give a number of illustrations that are common in our life, for these examples should help us to see how common this problem is and, hopefully, it will help us to avoid falling prey to Satan’s traps. Paul writes that “no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Are we “ignorant” of Satan’s schemes? If so, we may go through life without recognizing the many ways that this enemy of our soul leads us astray! Further, we may be actually causing ourselves to be in situations that would make it even harder to follow God than it would need to be!

Making Practical Repentance Difficult!

Examples of Difficult Repentance

Probably there are hundreds of illustrations that would show us how prevalent it is to place ourselves into life situations that will make repentance difficult. If you follow my reasoning, you will be able to see how complex and involved repenting of our sin and flesh can be!

Compromising and Sinful Occupations

One way that Satan uses that would make repentance difficult is that of sinful occupations or wrongful professions. Let’s begin by just imaging that a person sells many of his possessions and buys into a horse-racing establishment (or a dog-racing business). He invests several hundred thousand dollars into this endeavor but then wants to come to Christ Jesus through genuine repentance.

The businessman or owner in our illustration comes to see that he must repent of his sins, repent of his former worldly lifestyle, and begin to live for God and His will (see Luke 13:3, 5; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 20:21). If he remains in unrepentance, he faces God’s judgment: “Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5).  Thus, he surely will want to repent and “undo” as much of the sin he has committed as he can.

When one repents, he seeks to make reparations for his past wrongs. In other words, he makes restitution for the sins of his past. In the case of our example, the man will want to leave this sinful and compromising occupation of encouraging gambling and promoting this sinful activity. But how can he do this? How could he even sell his share in this business when to buy such a business would be sinful? And how could he stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars and be left without an occupation at all? How could he support his family and pay his bills?

This simply shows how difficult it will be to repent and make restitution for some sins and sinful practices (see Luke 19:8-10). Obviously, we could provide a hundred similar sinful occupations. To repent of having such occupations and to “escape” the “corruption” of them and “the defilements of the world” (2 Peter 1:4; 2:20), could very well cause one to lose all of his financial resources and perhaps even his marriage (for some spouses will want to continue in a sinful occupation because of the financial rewards that she has become accustomed to).

Think further of how a person who seeks to repent may suffer greatly by repenting and making restitution for many other occupations or professions: A high school biology teacher wants to renounce the evolutionary teaching that he is responsible for in senior high school (Genesis 1). A hair dresser who has been responsible for cutting the hair and styling the hairdos of women (and men) wants to repent (1 Corinthians 11:14-15; 1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-4). Or a member of the armed forces (whether the army, the navy, the air force, the marines, or the coast guard) wishes to repent and leave such an occupation (cf. Matthew 5:38-47; Luke 6:27-28; Romans 12:17-21; John 18:36). A worker in an industry that builds fighter bombers or missiles wants to repent of all violence and hostility in his profession and begin to live a peaceful and nonresistant life.

Continue my train of thought. A dance instructor wishes to repent. An owner of a fast food or junk food establishment wishes to repent. A teacher who teaches secularistic and worldly sociology, psychology, band, chemistry, or physics wishes to repent. A worldly bookstore owner wishes to repent. The list is endless. In all of these cases, we can see how difficult it will be to repent (and make restitution). We often place ourselves into situations and relationships that call for repentance—but often this repentance can be hard.

Teaching and Training Your Children Wrongly

Making Practical Repentance Difficult!

Most children (if they are trained at all!) are trained wrongly by their parents. They are allowed to watch TV (with surely 95% or more of the programs are worldly, humanistic, and evil), they are allowed to read books or magazines that are worldly, they are allowed to listen to worldly and compromising music, they watch all sorts of worldly movies, and they are permitted to engage in computer games—all of which lead the children astray!

Further, think of the fact that some 90% of parents send their children to compromising worldly secular schools, with their humanistic, secularistic, naturalistic, and evolutionary perspective. The children are exposed to all sorts of worldly education, entertainment choices, sports, immodest clothes, tattoos, and worldly activities. They are oriented to worldly “success” and achievement. We would suppose that some 90 to 98% of what boys and girls are exposed to serves to pull down their spirits and fill their minds with evil influences (see Philippians 4:8; 1 John 2:15-17; Romans 12;1-2; James 1:27; 4:4). This means that parents, who promote such things, are guilty of the worst kind of child abuse!

The question then arises, what does a father or mother do if their children have been influenced by all of these evil and compromising ways for four, eight, ten, or eighteen years? These children may be lost forever since it is so difficult to turn them from what they are familiar with to Godly or righteous influences. Even if parents would want to redirect their children, what if the children do not agree with this change of perspective? What if they rebel against the parental refusal to allow the children to continue with compromising and immoral playmates (1 Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 13:20)? And what should one do if one’s spouse continues with his or her former perspective and refuses to go along with family changes, the ones that the Christian wishes to initiate (1 Corinthians 7:12-16)? There could be a huge amount of reaction and promotion of wickedness!

If the family has been influenced by all sorts of sinful activities, what can be done? How does a man change his wife (or husband) and children so that they turn from sinful speech, sinful involvement with schooling, sinful music, sinful TV and movies, sinful entertainment, compromising sports or athletic participation, and so much more! The family could be filled with a chaotic atmosphere! It does take the partnership of a husband and wife—a father and mother—to bring about meaningful change in a family.

Marriage and Family Issues

Above we noticed how teaching and training one’s children can bring a family into a tremendous amount of pressure. Marriage itself is like this. What if a woman chooses to repent but her husband refuses to change his ways (this must have been the case often in New Testament times—1 Peter 3:1; 1 Corinthians 7:12-16). Conversely, what if a man chooses to repent and his wife is uninterested in drastic and dramatic change?

What if the unbeliever or unsaved person wants to continue with his worldly music, with his smoking and drunkenness, with his bad language, with his slander and gossip, with his TV and movie viewing, with immodest clothes, with his violent computer games, with his pornographic viewing, and with worldly hobbies? How can the spouse who wants to repent endure this kind of “push back” from his proposals? (And the same is true of a husband who seeks to change the family without his wife’s participation.)

Since the husband and wife are to be “one flesh” and “joined together” as one (Matthew 19:4-6), surely it must be one of the most problematic and difficult situations of life! How can the repentant spouse deal with a husband or wife who insists on his or her way and refuses to also repent and turn to God? If the husband or wife wants to follow Jesus and will not allow the other spouse to lead him astray, how can one maintain marital or family harmony and tranquility? How can a husband or wife promote a spiritual and moral atmosphere if the other is unwilling to change his or her ways and participate? There may actually be chaos, which is not at all conducive to a godly perspective and attitude.

Another marriage issue that can easily arise in today’s loose and immoral age is that of adultery. We know that if a husband or wife is unfaithful to marriage by having a sexual relationship with another person, that person commits adultery. Thus, God simply says, “You shall not commit adultery” (Romans 13:9). Sadly, millions of Americans have thus been unfaithful to their rightful spouse.

Making Practical Repentance Difficult!

However, another aspect of this problem seems to shock people when they realize this truth. When a spouse unlawfully divorces his husband or wife on grounds other than his or her sexual unfaithfulness and then marries another person, that person commits adultery. There are many passages that would discuss this. For example: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man she is committing adultery” (Mark 10:11-12; cf. Matthew 19:3-12; 5:31-32; 16:18; Romans 7:2-3).

As you can see, this may bring up a further problem. What if such a remarried person (committing adultery in a second marriage) seeks to repent by turning from his or her adultery and adulterous spouse? This could easily bring confusion, disruption, heartbreak, and financial loss. Further, think of the children and the confusion and distress that they will feel if their parents seek to renounce adultery and life a holy life! When a remarriage has occurred, probably many men and women (who have been exposed to compromising Hollywood movies) somehow assume that the second “marriage” will bring consolation and finally provide a “sweet” and romantic relationship. But when they discover that they are living in adultery, their world may crumble!

Housing and Family Problems

We are living in an age of high-cost housing—and this does not merely reflect places like the North-East, Chicago, California and Washington states, and similar places. It applies to many other places as well. When this high cost of housing arises, many have concluded must be met with two wage-earners. In January 1963, the median cost of a house was $17,200. By December 2017 the median price was $336,700 (and the average cost was $394.600) ( Presently it is possible to find housing at a lower cost, but if one wishes to find a house a distance from the city, with acreage, a place large enough to accommodate a large family, the cost could be much, much higher!

If a man earns only $10 an hour, or $20,800 a year, we can see that there is no way that he could earn enough to pay for a regular house! Add to this the fact that the Christian will probably be unable to take many jobs since they are incompatible with Christian values. Further, if the Christian has a larger family and chooses to educate his children at home, his wife will need to be a “stay at home” mother, and this would mean a single wage-earner (cf. 1 Timothy 5:14; Titus 2:4-5). Can a single wage-earner, who earns less than the average, really afford a house that will easily accommodate a large family?

Further, the Christian will probably seek to give not only ten percent of his income to the Lord, but possibly much more, and this would further decrease his usable income. (All of these considerations were carefully examined in a rather large book I wrote years ago entitled The Christian’s Response to Financial Problems.)  The bottom line in all of this is that the Christian wage-earner may encounter many, many financial struggles—if he chooses to be consistent in his walk with the Lord.

What does all of this mean? If an unbeliever has been willing to expose himself to worldly and compromising education in order to receive a college degree, if he has a small family (or no children at all—in this child-despising age), if he does send any children he has to the public, secular, and worldly school (allowing the government to pay perhaps $12,000 to $14,000 per child to educate the child according to the secular and humanistic ways of the world), if his wife holds down a job in addition to him, and if he owns a conventional house of about $400,000, we can see the huge problems that this will bring!

Making Practical Repentance Difficult!

I often think of this as I drive through the housing development where we now live. We were able to obtain our present dwelling place at half price under a special government program. Further, our house was repossessed, and it required a certain amount of work to make it livable. Also, the interest rates were quite low at that time. All of this allowed us to move into a house that we would never have been able to afford previously. However, when I consider neighbors and others in the development, I am led to wonder what would happen if these families were to be soundly saved and become Christians. The wives would quit their jobs and if they were to begin to educate their children at home. Further, I wonder what would happen if these families were to give a generous amount of their income to the Lord and His work, and further, if a certain percentage (20 percent? 50 percent? 80 percent?) of these households were to renounce their jobs and be unable to make monthly payments on their houses. Then what?

How does someone in this situation repent of the massive number of compromises he has been willing to live with in order to live a normal “American dream”? The scenario in the previous paragraph may well happen when the man of the house or both spouses choose to follow the Lord!

Giving to the Lord of One’s Income

Although many pastors and churches urge their members to give a “tithe,” generally the majority of Catholics and Protestants do not fulfill this obligation at all. They may only give two or five or 8 percent, on average. Other churches simply recommend that their members give whatever they are able to give, whether a large or small contribution. Some few members may give 12, 15, or 20 percent of one’s income to the church and other “Christian” causes.

Paul the apostle puts it this way: “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Other passages of Scripture would also speak to the matter of giving to the Lord and His causes as much as possible, whether a tithe or something more. Years ago I wrote an article entitled, “The Stumbling-block of the Tithe.” In this writing, I showed that some may be able to dutifully give a tithe of 10 percent of their gross (not net) income, but their income would actually allow them to give 20, 30, or even 80 percent of the income to the Lord and various spiritual works. But many just want to give as little as possible and still be considered “religious” or “spiritual.”

This becomes a serious hindrance to genuine repentance. If one has been living for five, ten, twenty, or thirty years and has only given ten percent (the traditional tithe) to the Lord, what is he to do? What if he has only given two, four, or six percent to the Lord; what is he to do? Further, what if he thinks he has given a certain percentage to the Lord, but eventually discovers that he has been supporting a false church, a compromising denomination, a cult, or a false teacher? If we had time here, we could show that this describes the majority of people who claim to be Christians.

How does such a person repent of his stingy giving? Further, how does he make restitution or reparations for this wrongdoing? To make restitution means to make amends for past wrongs committed. If one steals a car, he will give the car back, probably with an additional amount for interest. If one steals a given amount, he will return that amount, with interest. The principle is found in the attitude manifested by Zaccheus: “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I had defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much” (Luke 19:8). We can see that any sin on our part will make repentance difficult—for repentance necessarily implies making restitution (when it can be made).

Even when an actual sin of stealing is not involved, we can see that often God wants us to manifest repentance by our present decisions. For example, living a materialistic life in general will probably mean repentance needs to be made in some form. For example, suppose an unbeliever who earns much money (perhaps in a sinful occupation or profession) and who purchases a $3 million house comes to Christ. When he repents of his sinful extravagance and materialistic lifestyle, surely he will want to renounce this sin of materialism and escape from this lifestyle, including the wicked piling up of monetary goods and material lavishness. Remember that Jesus said, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23). He went on to say, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (v. 25). Do we want to enter the kingdom of God? Then we must look at money and material things much different than we did in the past.

If we make restitution for our past greed, this may result in giving much to make up the amount that we have not paid for many months or years. And this could require a great sacrifice of our part, especially if our decision isn’t honored by a spouse (who may remain in unbelief) or by our childern.

Religious Sacrifices and Repentance

Just here we could refer to a person who wants to repent and come to Christ from a world religion—such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Shinto, Jainism, Judaism, Baha’i, or many other false religions. Turning to Jesus Christ in faith will not only require a repentant attitude, but this may require a whole complex of sacrifices. He may lose the favor of his immediate family or his extended family (Matthew 10:34-38; 1 Peter 3:1-7). If he is living in a country where pluralism is not the prevailing view, this turning from false religion may be drastic indeed! In certain cultures a person may lose his livelihood or even his life (cf. John 16:1-2). He may lose his job, he may lose his marriage, he may lose his inheritance, or he may lose the favor of his friends!

Even when we speak of Christendom, we know that turning from the religion of one’s background may require great sacrifices by means of repentance. Suppose that a man has gone to Catholic parochial schools for twelve years. If he repents, this may require much sacrifice in turning away from this training. Suppose a denominational pastor or preacher turns from the false doctrine of his past. He may thereby be required to lose his long-sought pension and be left with virtually nothing. He may even lose his housing—the parsonage that he has come to enjoy over the years. Suppose a person is a professor in a denominational school (whether secondary or advanced) and he chooses to renounce his church and his school. He not only will lose his position but also his income, as well as the favor of his friends and working associates.

These brief examples simply show the ramifications of departing from one’s false religion through repentance and the sacrifices involved. If he renounces his church or denomination, he may not find supportive brothers and sisters in Christ who will have an understanding heart and offer sweet fellowship. In many ways, the person who leaves his “Christian” but false past may need to endure difficulties that are the direct result of his sincere repentance.

If you can put yourself into the shoes of someone who wishes to repent of his denominational affiliation or churchly involvement, perhaps you can see how difficult and heart-wrenching this step may be. All that he has considered firm and supportive must be abandoned. All the doctrines that he considered right and Biblical may need to be reexamined and probably either revised or forsaken. All that he believed in and taught in the past would need to be reconsidered or surrendered. This may require a serious reorientation that will turn his theological and religious world upside down! If you find yourself in this sort of situation, are you willing to pay the price of such a change?

Moving from the American form of “Conversion” and “Salvation”

We know that in this age of “easy-believism” some people don’t even consider the subject of repentance! They just think that if they “believe” in Jesus and in His death on the cross, all will be well and they will be saved. But is this true?

Scripture makes it clear that one must repent of his sins in order to have forgiveness of those sins (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 20:21; 26:18). People must “perform deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20b). The repentant person must “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Just as the Thessalonians “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b), so also people today must turn from their “idols” of false religion, of materialism, of compromising jobs or immodest clothing or family idolatry. All of these expressions of repentance may bring huge changes in a person’s life and require severe sacrifices!

In other words, what some people think is conversion to Christ and salvation may not be so! In this age of “no repentance” or religious compromise or superficial change, it doesn’t take much of a change or very little or no repentance. James says something differently. He writes, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turn into mourning and your soy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:8b-10). Are we willing to do this? Will we take a radical stand and make extensive changes in our life? Will we be willing to forsake material goods, a blessed friendship, a long-standing job, financial protection, the security of an occupational insurance policy, a house, even a marriage?

We must consider this carefully. In the words of Jesus our Lord, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:34-37). Let’s cease playing games with God and take His call to discipleship seriously! This is the only way. Surely eternal salvation in God’s presence is worth any price we must pay!

True Repentance is Essential!

We’ve seen some truths that perhaps you and others may consider shocking! Some may reject what we’re saying and claim that we are speaking about unessential matters. But Scripture is clear. God tells us to “count the cost” and choose Christ Jesus even when this choice is difficult.

How non-optional is repentance? Scripture says that God “is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). This shows that one who refuses to repent will perish! This is a serious consequence for one to pridefully refuse to repent. Paul also speaks about this matter of unrepentance: “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteousness judgment of God” (Romans 2:4-5).

Here we can see that without repentance, one will experience the wrath of God in the day of wrath! God lovingly, mercifully reaches out to us in kindness so that we will repent, but sadly too many people still refuse to repent and come to God. As Jesus said, “unless your repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5).

This is why there are so many scriptures that urge us to repent by changing our mind and heart about sin and living wholly for the Lord at present. Jesus wants us to proclaim “repentance for forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47). On the day of Pentecost, Peter declares, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). We also read, “Repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19a). Even Gentiles are told to repent, for God “is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30). Paul solemnly testified “to both Jews and Gentiles of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (20:31). Repentance is absolutely essential if we would be forgiven and be received by our merciful God one day.

But bear in mind that repentance isn’t merely a word, but it is a serious word with deep meaning. God wants us to see the gravity of true repentance and He also wants us to demonstrate in a practical way this true repentance. This is why repentance is so often connected with deeds or fruit (Matthew 3:8; Acts 26:20). Will you determine today to have a genuine repentance that issues in a changed life! May God help us to do this as we have the opportunity!



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