The Missing Response!
COMPROMISES TO REPENTANCE
All that we have seen thus far in our studies should convince us that repentance definitely needed for salvation. We must not explain it away, neglect it, or pervert it. Yet some in our day choose to compromise the full meaning and place of repentance.
(1) Repentance Viewed as Irrelevant
A prominent perspective in our day is the “fun and games” variety. These people conceive of Christianity as a religion of “churchianity” where people come together to have a good time. They think that we should be active in church softball games, bowling teams, ski trips, potluck suppers, barbecue get-to-gather, swimming parties, and visits to the local entertainments. This view leaves little room for a serious call to repentance and a radical change of life. They have a “form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Tim. 3:5). They have one foot in the world and try to place the other foot in the things of God. Repentance is largely eliminated.
(2) Repentance is Seen as Unspiritual
Some religious people think that the essence of Christianity is “praise and worship.” They also major on healings, tongues, and miracles (Matt. 7:21-22). They will travel long distances to see and hear big name preachers and “receive a blessing.” These “experience centered” people disdain those who would see a serious side to Christs way and call for a decisive change of conduct. They look upon themselves as “Spirit filled people” who are too “spiritual” to be concerned about the mundane matters of repentance, obedience, separation from the world, and cross-bearing. In contrast, Scripture says that the spiritual person, indwelt by Gods Spirit, will very much be concerned about these matters. The way of the Spirit is the way of repentance, obedience, and a transformed life.
(3) Repentance Viewed as Too Sin-Oriented
Some who profess to be Christians are caught up in a “positive thinking” orientation that leaves little room for pondering the depth of sin, the wrath of God, and the destiny of hell. They say that instead of recognizing our sinfulness and repenting for our sins, we should concentrate on “positive affirmations,” “positive confessions,” “positive meditations,” and a “positive self-image.” They say that rather than sin being the basic problem of humanity, the real problem is a low self-image and a negative self-concept. What is needed, according to these proponents, is not a recognition of guilt, judgment, and wrath upon the sinner, but a realization that god is altogether loving and accepting. He is thought to have “an unconditional love” that would not make great demands upon us. This perspective is foreign to the teaching of Christ and the apostles. Jesus said from the heart of man every sin arises that brings objective guilt (Mark 7:21-23). Paul added that people would be “lovers of self” (2 Tim. 3:2). What is needed is a denial of self (Mark 8:34)–a veritable crucifixion of the inner person (Rom. 6:6; cf. Gal. 2:20; 5:24). What is needed is not a prideful exaltation of self, but a humility that brings genuine repentance (James 4:6,10; 1 Peter 5:6).
All of these compromises to repentance must be renounced in light of the emphasis that the Scriptures give to this vital theme. Let us be willing to repent without compromise or equivocation, that we might reap the blessings of repentance.
SINS OF THE SINNER AND SINS OF THE SAINT
Let us consider how repentance relates to sins of unbelievers and sins of the saints. We have noticed that repentance is a response to sin and the Savior throughout life. Since we are not God and since we are not entirely sinless, we never outgrow our need to repent.
(1) Sins of the Sinner
Often a general repentance is in view when the alien sinner is mentioned. For example, Peter calls upon is hearers to “repent” and “return” and speaks of “turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:19,26). A general repentance and turning from “wicked ways” is needed. When Philip “preached Jesus” to the Ethiopian (Acts 8:35), he probably referred to Isaiahs words: “Each of us has turned to his own way” (Isa. 53:6-8 with Acts 8:32-35). We assume that the Ethiopian repented of following his own sinful “ways.” Pauls very mission involved preaching to the Gentiles that they might “turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18). This seems to be a reference to sin in general.
Sometimes a special repentance regarding unbelief in Christ and treatment of Him is emphasized. Perhaps this is a chief consideration in Peters call to repentance on Pentecost (Acts 2:36-38), although “sins” in general are likewise involved (v. 38; cf. 5:30-31). We may assume that Paul was very much concerned about his former rejection of Jesus and persecution of His followers, thus repentance may have centered on this, although his sins in general were also in view (Acts 22:4-8,16; 26:9-15).
There were also times when repentance for specific sins were in the forefront. The jailer washed the wounds of Paul and Silas, apparently indicating his repentance for the part he played in their beating (Acts 16:33). There definitely needs to be a repentance of specific sins when one comes to God for forgiveness. Paul, for example, says, “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9b-11). These believers had been characterized by these sins and part of coming to Christ involved turning away from “life-dominating” sins such as these–fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, and drunkenness. They repented of the specific sins that ruled their lives and they turned away from them.
When people came to Johns baptism, they must have had prominent sins in mind as they “confessed their sins” (Matt. 3:6; cf. Mark 1:5). When Zaccheus repented, he must have especially had the sins of greed, dishonesty, and theft in mind (Luke 19:8-10). You will remember too that Jesus called upon the rich young ruler to sell all of his possessions (Mark 10:21). Apparently He knew that this was a special area needing repentance.
The sinner today must come to see himself as God sees him. He is sinful in conduct, speech, and thought. He must repent of sin in a general way. But he also needs to repent of leaving God out of his life and failing to submit to Jesus as Lord. Each person also has particularly deep rooted sins and these must be specifically renounced and forsaken.
(2) Sins of the Saint
Let us consider repentance as it relates to the saint. The believer is one who has “died to sin” (Rom. 6:2; cf. v. 11); his “body of sin” has been dealt with (v. 6); and he is not longer under sins mastery and dominion (vv. 6-7,18,22). The saint must not “continue in sin” (v. 1). The repentant believer realizes that “the one who practices sin is of the devil” and “no one who sins has seen Him or known Him” (1 John 3:8,6; cf. vv. 9-10). After one truly repents at the point of salvation, he is to seek holiness (Heb. 12:14), righteousness (1 John 3:7,10), and purity (3:3).
Yet repentance continues to have a place in the saints life, as we have seen earlier. If he sins, he must confess with sincere repentance if he wishes to be forgiven (1 John 1:9; cf. Acts 8:22; James 5:16). This repentance applies to various areas:
(a) Sins of Weakness. As a believer sins by yielding to a temptation to do wrong (James 1:12-15; Matt. 26:69-75), he must humbly seek Gods forgiveness by repenting of his sin and confessing it to God.
(b) Sins of Ignorance. As a believer learns of a particular sin of which he was unaware (cf. Eph. 5:10,17; Heb. 9:7), he must immediately repent and seek Gods cleansing (1 John 1:7), determining to not sin in this way again. He should pray that God will reveal more areas of his life that require repentance and change (cf. Psalm 139:23-24).
(c) Sins of Rebellion. These definitely are serious and must not have a place in our lives (Heb. 10:26-31; cf. 1 John 5:16-17). One must repent of such a sinful attitude and “stop sinning” (1 Cor. 15:34). He must utterly abandon such expressions of sin and plead to God for mercy.
The more sensitive the Christians conscience, the more he will see areas of his life that must be submitted to Christ as Lord. We should daily confess every single thought, attitude, word, and deed (both of commission and omission) that is not pleasing to God, repenting with a humble and sincere heart, that we may claim the promise of forgiveness and cleansing through Christs blood (1 John 1:7). If we have difficulty seeing any defects in our heart, mind, conscience, and behavior, let us plead with God to show us our imperfections (Psalm 19:12-13; 139:23-24).
DOES EMOTION HAVE A PLACE?
We are all creatures with an emotional aspect to our being. We have the capacity to experience joy and sorrow, guilt and shame, worry and fear. Although each of us is different, we will probably experience various emotions with different degrees of intensity as we repent of sins and come to God for His forgiveness.
When Paul counseled the Corinthian community to accept the repentant sinner back into its fellowship, he expressed concern that the man might be “overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (2 Cor. 2:7). Deep grief or sorrow has an important part in the decision to repent (2 Cor. 7:9-10). James calls upon his readers to submit to God: “Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom” (James 4:9). Emotion definitely was encouraged.
Consider the Old Testament. When Job finally saw himself as God saw him, he lamented, “Now my eye sees Thee; therefore I retract [despise myself, NIV], and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5b-6). When Jonah announced the overthrow of the evil city of Nineveh, the record says that the people “called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5). Even the king left the throne, “laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat on the ashes” (v. 6). Remember also Daniel who grieved for the sins of Israel and sought God “by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes” (Dan. 9:3). David expressed great emotion in light of his sin as he confessed, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Psa. 51:17).
The New Testament reveals the same. When Peter recognized the horror and heinousness of his sin of denying the Lord, the record says that “he went out and wept bitterly” (Matt. 26:75). When the tax-gather in Christs parable realize his sinfulness, he “was beating his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13). When the sinful woman entered the Pharisees house to anoint Jesus feet, Luke tells us that she was “weeping”–and crying to such an extent that “she began to wet His feet with her tears” (Luke 7:37-38,44). We must also remember that Paul (or Saul) was so utterly distraught and grieved over his former sin that he “neither ate nor drank” for three days (Acts 9:9).
We can see, therefore, that repentance was often accompanied by and expressed by many emotions. When a person is overwhelmed by the weight of his sins, there may be mourning, a crushed feeling, groaning, anguish, and anxiety (see Psalm 38:6,8,18; cf. vv. 1ff). Since repentance is a response to the enormity and guilt of sin, the prospect of eternal punishment, and the reality of a holy, righteous, and loving God, we can see the reason that it is sometimes attended by great and powerful emotions.
Why do people fail to respond to sin in this way? Why do they take it all so casually, with an air of unconcern? Why is repentance so lacking in fervor and the prospect of forgiveness so void of passion? Maybe the sinner has a superficial view of sin. He may not realize the eternal peril that awaits him while he remains in his sin. He may not see that every day he stands on the brink of eternity, banished from the very presence of God. Perhaps he is merely viewing sin and condemnation in an academic way rather than a personal way. He sees it as a subject to be studied and analyzed rather than a command to be obeyed.
Emotion will only come when the person clearly sees the truth about God, about sin, and about his personal condition. When Isaiah saw a vision of God, he said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined!” (Isa. 6:5). When Peter realized that he was in the presence of the Lord, he fell at Jesus feet and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8-9). Let us see the holiness, the righteousness, the wrath, and the mercy of God; let us see the depth of our sin and rebellion; then let us hear the gracious offer of forgiveness. This will be sufficient to break ones heart and bring one to the point of repentance.
HOW WAS REPENTANCE EXPRESSED?
When a person repented of his sins and waywardness, he expressed this in various ways–depending upon his situation in life and his sin. Let us notice how men and women manifested the repentance of their heart, or how the Lord wanted them to express this repentance:
- When Levi (Matthew) was called by the Lord, “he left everything behind, and rose up and began to follow Him” (Luke 5:27-28).
- Zaccheus manifested his repentance by giving half of his possessions to the poor and giving back four times as much to those he defrauded (Luke 19:8).
- When the rich man came to Jesus, the Lord told him to go and sell all he possessed and give it to the poor, and then come and follow Him (Mark 10:21).
- When the adulterous woman was left alone, Jesus told her that he did not condemn her but she was to sin no more (John 8:11).
- When the sinful woman came to Jesus, she wept and washed His feet, indicating her great love (Luke 7:37-50).
- If the Samaritan woman would follow Jesus, she would have been required to renounce the fornication in which she was living (John 4:17-18).
- Apparently when Simon believed and was baptized, he turned from his “magic arts” and probably his great popularity (Acts 8:9-13).
- When the multitudes came to John, he told them to express repentance by giving their excess clothes and food to those in need (Luke 3:10-11).
- If Herod were to repent, he would have needed to renounce his adulterous marriage to Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip (Mark 6:17-18; Matt. 14:3-4).
- If the people at Lystra had repented, they wound have needed to turn from vain idols (Acts 14:15).
- When the magicians of Ephesus repented, they brought their books together and burned them (Acts 19:18-19).
- If the Ephesian silversmiths were to come to Christ, they would have needed to renounce their making of shrines for the goddess Artemis (Acts 19:24-26).
- If the Corinthian brother was to repent, he must give up his partner in fornication (1 Cor. 5:1,11; 6:9-10).
We should be able to see from such examples that although repentance itself is an inner change, it does have outer expressions. Repentance can be costly.
DOES REPENTANCE REQUIRE FORSAKING SIN?
We have seen above that when a person sincerely repents and has a change of heart regarding his sin and regarding God, he will demonstrate this change in the way he lives. Repentance is a change of perspective that issues in a change of life. Not only will one feel sorry for the sins he has committed, but he will actually renounce those sins and seek never to commit them again. Let us notice how this is clearly taught in Scripture.
Isaiah calls upon sinful Israel of his day to deal decisively with sin:
Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him;
And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:7-8)
The sinner must earnestly “forsake” the way he was going and forsake the unrighteous thoughts that characterized his life. There must be no compromises if he seeks the pardon of God.
Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.
Cease to do evil, learn to do good. (Isaiah 1:16-17a)
Again we see that there is a negative and a positive. They were to remove the evil and cease committing it. Instead, they were to do the good. Notice another example from the Old Testament:
I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct. . . .
Repent and turn away from all your transgressions,
so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you.
Not only were they to repent, having a change of mind and heart, but they were to “turn away” from all of their sins. The inner response was to be demonstrated by their actual forsaking of sin.
Let us notice again the example of the repentance of those in Nineveh:
“Let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. . . .” When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. (Jonah 3:8b,10)
Not only did the people have good intentions, but they also “turned from” the wicked ways they were pursuing. Any inward response that does not intend to actually forsake the sin, unrighteous, evil, transgression, immorality, and wickedness of his life is not true repentance!
Let us notice a final one in the Hebrew Scriptures. The message is clear: “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Prov. 28:13). Notice that it is not sufficient to merely confess ones sins; one must also “forsake” them–actually renounce them, turn from the, and leave them!
THE FRUIT OF REPENTANCE
We have seen the emphasis above that repentance must issue in an actual forsaking of the sins we acknowledge. Repentance itself is not the forsaking, but it results in the forsaking. We not only must regret that we have sinned, and resolve to do differently, there must be an actual reformation of life–a practical change of conduct.
When people came to John to be baptized, he declared, “Bring forth fruits in keeping with your repentance” (Luke 3:8; cf. Matt. 3:8). Repentance must result in practical fruit. Although repentance is not the fruit, the repentance will result in the fruit of a changed life.
This is vital factor in Pauls own mission. He proclaimed the message of repentance to both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 20:21). Luke summarizes Pauls message in this way: “They should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20b). The stress here is that genuine repentance, sincere repentance, a repentance that comes from a sensitive conscience will, in fact, be manifested in “deeds” of repentance. Notice also the words of Christ to those in Ephesus who had left their first love: “Remember there fore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first” (Rev. 2:5a). The sincerity of their repentance would be revealed by the good deeds, the deeds of love, they would do.
Someone has captured this truth about forsaking sin and living a new life in this little poem:
Tis not enough to say Im sorry and repent
And then go on from day to day just as we always went.
Repentance is to leave the sins we loved before,
And show that we in earnest grieve, by doing them no more.
The fruit or deeds of repentance may be expressed in many different ways, depending on the character of our former life. Gods Word gives us some idea of how to change in words and behavior subsequent to repentance. In Ephesians 4 and 5, for example, Paul gives us instruction in this:
FORMER LIFE PRESENT LIFE Lusts of the flesh (4:22) Righteousness and holiness (4:24) Falsehood (v. 25) Speak the truth (v. 25) Stealing (v. 28) Labor and give (v. 28) Unwholesome words (v. 29) Edifying words filled with grace (v. 29) Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice (v. 31) Kindness, tender-hearted, forgiveness (v. 32) Filthiness, silly talk, course jesting (5:4) Giving of thanks (5:4) Unfruitful deeds of darkness (v. 11) Expose such deeds (v. 11) Drunk with wine (v. 18) Filled with the Spirit (v. 18)
This kind of exercise definitely shows the dramatic contrast between ones former life of self and sin, and his present life of holiness after he has repented of his sinful ways.
Let us examine briefly one prominent way that a person may demonstrate his repentance and his new life in Christ. We remember that in Acts 2, Peter declared to the people: “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (v. 38). But this was not all. “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (v. 40, NIV). The result? “Those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (v. 41).
What do we learn from this section? The guilty hearers responded to Peters words by repenting of their sins and by being baptized (immersed) in the name of Jesus Christ. They received the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, notice another vital fact in this passage. They were “saved” from a “corrupt” or “perverse” generation (NIV, NASB)–a people who remained in the guilt and condemnation of sin. Beyond this, they were added to another people–a community of believers who had repented and been baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. They were part of a repentant people and a people filled with the Spirit! Their repentance had a practical result.
As we read the following verses, we see that these repentant and baptized people could be characterized in this way:
- They were continually devoted to the apostles teaching (v. 42; cf. Matt. 28:19-20).
- They were devoted to fellowship (v. 42).
- They were devoted to the breaking of bread–probably a reference to remembering the Lords death (v. 42; cf. 20:7).
- They were devoted to prayer (v. 42).
- They were living in the presence of the apostles miracles (v. 43).
- They were together and had all things in common (v. 44).
- They freely shared as others had need (v. 45).
- They had “one mind” or a unity of life and belief and judgment (v. 46; cf. 1 Cor. 1:10).
- They had gladness and sincerity of heart as they shared their meals together (v. 46).
- They praised God (v. 47).
- They saw others saved by God even as they had been saved (v. 47).
We know that certain elements of the life of this early community of saints were particularly found in the early days of Jerusalem. Yet we may learn from their experience. When one repents, he forsakes his former ways of self, sin, and Satan. He begins to produce the fruit of repentance–a changed life with a new Master, a new lifestyle, new speech, new habits, new aspirations, and a new destiny. And this new life of repentance is lived in community–with others who have truly repented of their sins, who have exercised saving faith in Christ, and who have been baptized (immersed) into Christ Jesus and been added to His body. This is a prominent and practical outcome of true repentance!
Notice further ways that this fruit of repentance will be found in our life:
OLD LIFE NEW LIFE Scripture Friend of the world Enemy of the world James 4:4 Conformed to the world Transformed in mind Romans 12:1-2 Old creature New creature 2 Cor. 5:17 Living for self Living for Christ 2 Cor. 5:14-15 Mind set on the flesh Mind set on the Spirit Rom. 8:5-9 Lusts of men Will of God 1 Peter 4:2 Deeds of the flesh Fruit of the Spirit Gal. 5:19-21
We can easily see that repentance will result in an entirely different life and a completely different way of viewing life. The “fruit of repentance” is vital.
THE RESTITUTION OF REPENTANCE
Restitution is a missing element in most peoples thinking of our day. Some do not even know the meaning of the term! Restitution is the making of reparation or amends for past sins and offenses. It involves the restoration of property or money when this is possible. This would be one of the immediate “fruits” of repentance.
The Law of Moses emphasized the requirement of restitution. For example, one who acted unfaithfully was to confess his sins and “make restitution in full for his wrong, and add to it one-fifth of it, and give it to him whom he has wronged” (Num. 5:6-7). This kind of legislation was repeated again and again in the Old Testament (cf. Lev. 5:15-16; 6:2-5; Exod. 22:1-5,7,9; 2 Sam. 12:5-6; Ezek. 33:14-16). Proverbs adds this to the teaching: “Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry; but when he is found, he must repay sevenfold; he must give all the substance of his house” (6:30-31).
The clearest example in the New Testament is found in the words of Zaccheus: “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much” (Luke 19:8). This repentant tax-gatherer knew that genuine repentance must be expressed in a different attitude toward wealth–probably the cause of much of his former sin. Paul also was aware of the principle of restitution for he speaks of repaying any wrong that Onesimus may have committed against his former master, Philemon (Phile. 18-19).
We may illustrate restitution in this way. If you steal someones book and then repent, you must restore the book that you took. If you damage someones car through your carelessness and then repent, you must repair the car or pay to have it repaired. If you take $100 from someone, you must pay the money back (with interest, if it was a long while ago). The principle is simple: One who repents (an inward change of mind and perspective) must express this repentance outwardly (by seeking to correct past wrongs and sins). As we said, this is a fruit of repentance.
We know, of course, that not all former sin is that of theft or stealing. Strict restitution, therefore, is impossible to rectify past misdeeds. But the sincere person who repents will do all within his power to correct his sins and clear his conscience before God. He must seek the Lords wisdom in deciding how to carry out repentance in each case. If one has committed a crime in the past, he will need to surrender to the legal authorities (Romans 13:1-6). If one has spread untrue rumors about another, he will need to confess his sins to the offended party and attempt to correct the sin by telling the truth (Eph. 4:25). If a person has conceived a child outside of marriage, he will need to support the child as he is growing up (1 Tim. 5:8). If one has cheated on his taxes in the past, he will need to forfeit all that he owes (Romans 13:6-8; Matt. 22:17-21). If a person has sold inferior products unknown to the buyer, he may need to correct this injustice in some way (Luke 18:8). If one has shared false teaching with other persons through literature (or from the pulpit as a teacher or pastor), he should seek to share the truth with these same people (2 Tim. 4:2-4; Eph. 4:15). The discerning disciple should pray for Gods wisdom in deciding how to carry out the implications of repentance in his own case (2 Tim. 2:7).
OPEN DEMONSTRATION OF REPENTANCE
Sometimes people who seek to repent before God are hesitant to demonstrate this change of heart openly before others. They may be concerned that others will reject them, that their family will not understand, that they will lose their job, or that they will be ridiculed by their friends and associates. Therefore, they may want to be a “secret disciple” without openly displaying their change of life.
Ultimately this is impossible. Life in Christ is so radical, so revolutionary, and so diametrically opposed to nearly everything this world stands for, that the true Christian will not only be different but he will be seen as different from others. He is to be “the light of the world” and “the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13-15). Paul says that believers are to prove themselves “to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom [they] appear as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).
On occasion, the believer may need to take a public stand and demonstrate his repentance in an outward form. This is what the repentant believers did in Ephesus. Notice the record: “Many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver” (Acts 19:19; cf. vv. 18-20). These people evidently repented and renounced their involvement in magic. But they also publicly repudiated their sins by destroying their occult literature. What was the price of the books they burned? In todays reckoning, the price would be about $3,000,000 or even more! They chose to totally eliminate that which pertained to their former sins.
This reminds us of what God wanted during the Mosaic period. We read of this instruction given to Israel: “You shall tear down their [pagan] altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim [wooden female deities], and burn their graven images with fire” (Deut. 7:5). The directives of God continued: “The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. And you shall not bring an abomination into your house, and become a devoted thing like it; you shall utterly detest and you shall utterly abhor it, for it is a devoted thing” (vv. 25-26). We can see that God wanted these heathen objects to be entirely eliminated lest they prove to snare His people into sin. They were to be destroyed. They were not to be brought into a house. Gods people were to “utterly detest” and “utterly abhor” such idolatrous objects!
As we read through the remainder of the Old Covenant writings we continue to see the need to destroy, burn, and entirely eliminate objects used for sinful purposes (cf. Deut. 12:3; Num. 33:51-52; Exod. 23:24; 34:13; 2 Kings 18:4; 2 Chron. 31:1). David expressed the same attitude:
I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.
I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not fasten its grip on me.
A perverse heart shall depart from me;
I will know no evil. (Psalm 101:2b-4)
The psalmist was determined to keep perverse objects such as idols out of his sight and out of his house. We should do the same. I can recall how one young girl about twenty turned to the Lord, choosing to throw away her worldly music, her immodest clothes, and other objects that she had known in the world. One family that burned their television and Christmas decorations when they repented of these practices. One woman threw away her immodest clothes, such as pants, when she repented. I can recall destroying and discarding books and music when I was convicted that these were questionable or wrong.
When one repents of sin, he must turn from the sin and begin to live for righteousness. When he turns from the world and its evil and perverse ways, he should renounce those objects that pertain to the world. If we are to be “unstained by the world” (James 1:27b), if we are to be an enemy of the world (James 4:4), if we are not to be “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2), and if we are not to “love the world” or “the things in the world” (1 John 2:15-17), we should be eager to renounce and turn away from the world that tempts us to fall away from God. We should relinquish and even destroy everything that would be displeasing to the Lord.
What would this mean today? Maybe you have magic or occult items (such as horoscopes, ouji boards, tarot cards, or “good luck” charms) that should be destroyed. Consider also the following items:
- Immodest, costly, sexy clothes (1 Tim. 2:9; 1 Pet. 3:3).
- Tapes and disks of worldly music (Mk. 4:24; 1 Jn. 2:16).
- Drugs (Rom. 12:1).
- Liquor (Prov. 20:1; Rom. 14:21).
- Tobacco (1 Cor. 6:20).
- Magazines, books, other literature (Phil. 4:8).
- Video tapes and most computer games (Phil. 4:8).
- Awards, trophies, prizes, medals (Prov. 16:5,18).
- Pornography (Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).
- Televisions (Psalm 119:37).
- Jewelry (1 Tim. 2:9-10; 1 Pet. 3:3-4).
- Expensive cups, dishes, and kitchen items (Matt. 23:12).
- Ostentatious furnishings and antiques (Luke 16:14-15).
- Sport equipment and paraphernalia (1 Tim. 4:7b-8).
- Collections of various worldly items (1 John 2:15-17).
- All kinds of makeup for sex appeal (Prov. 6:25; Isa. 3:16).
We need not give more examples at this point. We simply wish to show the place to totally rid your life and your house of all of those worldly, religious, occultic, and even questionable items that were part of your former sinful life. As we mentioned above, it may even be the part of wisdom to burn such items–entirely destroy them–so that they will not be a stumblingblock to you or others. If you were to sell them or give them to others, you would simply encourage or invite others to participate in the same worldly lifestyle that you have escaped.