This Week's Watchword
Bear fruits worthy of repentance.
Monday's N.T. Text
It is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
The inclusive meaning of repentance has to do with a turning around (Hebrew) as well as a change in thinking leading to a change in action (Greek). Throughout the Bible, it also can describe regret or sorrow that doesn't lead anywhere. When a public figure's private misdeeds (Tiger Woods, for example) are exposed, the image consultants will say that sincere contriteness must be expressed at some point if their public persona is to be repaired.
But the New Testament knows at least as much about how the word was used in its every day Roman context. Repeated repentance and renunciation of Christianity was required of accused Christians in many parts of the empire. Evidence suggests that those who persisted or who endured in their faith, could have been executed for their stubbornness, or, if they were a Roman citizen, shipped off to Rome. The story of Paul follows this second scenario. Announcing the imperative, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand," as Jesus does in Mark 1:15 or "Bear fruits worthy of repentance" as John Baptizer does in Luke 3:8 would have certainly been a subversive thing to hear and then do. It also might have brought a knowing smile.
Faithful repentance is not about feeling sorry; gospel repentance upends our world and our life as we love it. We fashion a comfortable, safe, stable, and convenient existence. Successful adults are well adjusted, balanced, and know how to find their place. But those attributes are hard to capture or control. They exist more in the imagination of "wouldn't it be nice?"
Faithful repentance turns toward the movement of a loving God within. The change in thinking may be that God is indeed at work within us, of all people. Holy Spirit love is claiming, calming, and calling us, cheering us on to the end that we will want more of God's love for ourselves and our world. And God's end is delight in us. There is no hidden agenda or neediness in God's "good pleasure." It's about God's abundance and overflow of joy in us!
It was once said that the Wesleyan view of perfection is not moral, but rather, loving intention. Can everything be done out of a loving heart, one first loved by God? It's from this holy encounter that the "good fruits" naturally and inevitably flow.
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