Musing on Repentance 2: Element of the cleansing process

Repentance is a word that refers to an essential element of the Christian faith. Repentance is needed in order to be able to accept the gift of redemption. It is an essential element of salvation. We do not enter into the kingdom of God without surrender and turning from self and sin. Turning to Jesus as the answer at heart means accepting that nothing that self can do is good enough and there is a need for help. It is possible to repent of something and not turn to Jesus but you cannot turn to Jesus unless you turn from self. Repentance is also very vital in understanding other element of the Way of Jesus, the Christian faith. Repentance is a key component to the ongoing process of being cleansed and perfected (known as sanctification.)

First of all, it is worth noting that by accepting the gift of redemption and being saved, that positional before God the Father we are clean. It is already a done and completed task. Jesus declared at the cross, It is finished! If we were not considered clean, the Holy Spirit could not reside. If we were not considered clean we could not approach God. We are consistently in a “clean state” before God. As the Bible states, all who have become a disciple of Jesus and follow Him as The Way, are a new creation. The old corrupt and dirty self is dead, done away with. Sin has no power. These facts are true and certain.

Yet, there is a paradox here, for while we are already made clean, we still are in the process of being made clean. In order to grasp this thought one needs to understand that God does not operate in a linear fashion with time. It is possible before God to be in a state of being clean, yet still be in process of being cleansed, for that is the reality. Each of us are in a growth process that is continuing to change. Many times we deviate the Way and onto a course of our own choosing. Sometimes we hold onto areas in our life that we do not want to give up. We still miss the mark often. So the sin nature while considered dead is still active. We still are learning and growing and there is never a point we arrive. When we have been able to repent and turn from one area of sin and self in our life, God reveals deeper levels and exposes the desires of the heart that twist things toward self. So there remains the continual need of turning from self. There is no sanctification without repentance. Note, that just like salvation, there can be turning from sin but a lack of true cleansing, for the actions and the fruit of self are rubbish before God and do not “clean.”

In thinking about the process of sanctification, a conceptual image has developed for me. This image came to my mind after thinking about the vision of the kingdoms of the world the prophecy interpreted by Daniel of the statue. The statue shows the Kingdoms of the world moving from pure gold to ultimately dirt. Each step is a lower level of value. Well, the image of sanctification is the opposite. We are moving from a lower value state to a higher value. The statue moved from gold to the common elements of iron and clay. Now the concept is that sanctification is the exact opposite. We are being refined from dust and ashes  to that which is even more precious than gold. As we grow and mature and are refined, we become more pure and precious.

Perhaps, even the sanctification and what we overcome is reflected in the crowns of life we each will be presented. The crown adorned with the precious metals and gems that derive from the course of life and how we turn from self. Each victory may well be another gem. We achieve victory by practicing true and genuine repentance. When we turn from self toward a focus on loving God and others, it is a victory. Then even when we not only turn from self but help others to take steps of repentance to salvation or play a role in their ongoing sanctification, what God fashions is even more precious. And what God fashions is precious in so far as it reflects Him, that his nature is seen. It is even that recognition that will result in our setting aside any crown before Him, for it is all but His and His nature. It is nothing we possess, it is what God is doing, and the acts of repentance resulting in growth toward being more in the image of Jesus is essential. If there is not repentance, there can be not fruit, and if there is no fruit, the rewards are less, and the less the reward the less we have to offer back to God as a reflection of His glory.