(click hereto listen to a podcast of this column) The scriptures are full of references to repentance. On the day of Pentecost, Peter called for repentance. He “said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
Christ himself said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32 ). Referring to repentance, Isaiah said, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
Though the scriptures make it clear that we need to repent, and there are great blessings attached to repentance, our modern world seems to place little importance on the concept. Perhaps it is because we do not understand how and why we need to repent.
I grew up with the notion that there are eternal and immutable laws that govern all things, and when we are obedient to those laws, the Lord blesses us. When we are disobedient, we lose blessings.
It is easy to see rewards and consequences of natural laws. Thou shalt not jump off a cliff or you will hit the rocks below. You may die or you may be maimed for the rest of your life. Thou shalt not touch a hot stove or your fingers will be burned. Thou shalt not stick your tongue on a frozen pipe or you will get stuck.
It is a little harder to see the consequences and blessings of moral laws that are spelled out in the Ten Commandments. We can profane the name of the Lord for years before we come to a crisis, and try to turn to Him for help, and because of our past irreverence, we find we do not believe in Him.
It is not easy to see how a tryst in the moonlight with someone else’s spouse could make a difference in your life. From the moment you start to be unfaithful, the Spirit of the Lord leaves. Gradually your soul is darkened until there is little or no spiritual communication with God.
Trust is the next thing that goes. Your spouse, children and neighbors lose faith in you, and you are headed for disaster. Of course, unlike touching a hot stove, it may take years for the consequences to catch up, but they inevitability will. That is why repentance is so important.
From my earliest recollection, I was taught the four “Rs” of repentance.
1. Recognition: We must realize that we have done something wrong.
2. Remorse: We must feel sorrow for what we have done.
3. Restitution: We must make amends for what we have done.
4. Resolve: We must make a resolution to never do it again and then keep the resolution.
In our modern world, repentance seems archaic and unnecessary. We are masters of our own fate. We make choices and our choices do not affect anyone else. We are islands cushioned by our own comfort zones, but we are surrounded every day by people who repent.
In sports, a professional player goes through the process of repentance daily. He makes mistakes, the official calls the play and the player recognizes that he made a bad choice. Quickly he corrects it and commits to never do that again.
Through this process, he becomes a better player. The player who cannot bear correction doesn’t last very long. A team player is always aware that his or her behavior affects the entire team. He cannot make a mistake without losing ground for the team.
An airplane pilot uses his instruments to correct his course. If he gets one degree off the desired destination, he corrects, because he knows that each degree will take him miles and miles off course. According to the author of the blog A Mile in My Schu’s (http://day1of1.wordpress.com/2011/02/12/off-course/):
… If a plane’s course is just one degree off from its intended destination, it will be 92 feet off course for every mile it travels. Now I know you’re thinking – so what? That’s about the length of a basketball court.But tell me, when’s the last time you took a one-mile flight? Over time that gap will increase. In fact, after traveling just 53 miles, the plane is a full mile off course. On a flight from New York to Los Angeles, the plane would be over 46 miles off course.
If one degree off course can make such a difference, a pilot must repent very quickly or he might have some very unhappy passengers, if the plane reaches the destination at all. Uncharted courses can be dangerous. Good pilots keep their eyes tuned to course corrections. They are vigilant to correct minor errors.
Drivers must repent quickly also. If the car veers over the yellow line, they are quick to turn the wheel to get back on course. If they do not make the correction, they are headed for an accident.
Imagine how foolish it would be for a driver to intentionally drive 60 miles an hour down a one-way street, expecting that he is the master of his fate, and the choices he makes is no one else’s business. The consequences of that foolish choice could not be avoided.
The driver might succeed in dodging a few cars, but eventually the consequences of his choice will catch up with him and he must pay the price.
Moral choices are just as important as choosing not to drive the wrong way down a one-way street. A man or woman who thinks that breaking God’s law is just a Sunday afternoon hike up a forbidden mountain and will not harm anyone is in for a big surprise.
We can see the consequences of self-indulgent choices all around us. Broken homes and families are everywhere. Without education and job skills, poverty-stricken, unwed mothers struggle to make a life for their children. Crime and vandalism is on the rise.
Disrespectful children snarl at their parents and teachers in unprecedented ways. Dishonest schemes flood the media. People in government, sports and entertainment are lauded for their immoral behavior. Repentance is far from their minds.
Bonnell Thornton said, “Some often repent, yet never reform; they resemble a man traveling in a dangerous path, who frequently starts and stops but never turns back.”
Do the choices of some affect the entire nation? You can be certain of that! “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee” (John Donne, “Meditation 17”). Sin in the remotest corner is never just innocent. It is far-reaching and will eventually grow to destroy.
The laws of God are irrevocably tied to the laws of nature. You cannot travel down a wrong path and expect to arrive at the right destination; it is against nature – but through the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can repent. We can travel back over the path and make a new start through the repentance process.
Neil L. Andersen said, “The invitation to repent is rarely a voice of chastisement but rather a loving appeal to turn around and to ‘re-turn’ toward God.” An appeal for repentance is an act of mercy. God loves us enough to tell us that we are traveling down a one-way street, careening toward catastrophe.
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:19). The Lord loves us and wants the best for us, just as a loving parent wants the safety and happiness of his or her child.
God knows that there is only one true road to happiness. It is the “straight and narrow path” of the Ten Commandments. The rise or downfall of society rests on morality, not free-for-all indulgences. Self-discipline, strict obedience and quick repentance are the answer.
We must learn the art of the four steps to repentance: Recognition, Remorse, Restitution and Resolve. As we use them, we will become better people, families, communities, states and a better nation. God will gently lead us to peace and prosperity. PD
2 lbs. peeled carrots, cook until crunchy
¾ cup sugar
½ cup rice vinegar
1 can tomato soup straight from the can
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. mustard
1 diced medium green pepper
1 diced onion
Mix ingredients together. Pour over carrots and refrigerate overnight.