The Timeline of Repentance
Yesterday we talked about salvation; today we turn our attention towards repentance. Repentance is a different thing altogether. Repentance is the changing of one’s mind about who Christ is and your general attitude toward sin, namely, that sin is bad and you don’t like it anymore because of what it does to you and to your relationships. This change of mind will necessarily bring about a change in behavior, but you can’t know what parts of your behavior must change until you’re a Christian. Moreover, you can’t say for sure when the Holy Spirit will bring about these changes. Your job is just to submit to his leading.
It is this understanding that allows me to say that people who disagree with me over issues of faith and morality may have a legitimate relationship with God. They may be saved. They may be Christians – even if they continue to sin. Because God refuses to give up on us when we miss the mark, the Holy Spirit refuses to leave us when we fail.
God knows I fail and continue to sin! Every Christian I know (especially the pastors) fails and continues to sin. We’re all growing in our understanding of what it means to be like Jesus. The Holy Spirit works on his own timeline, revealing which portions of my lifestyle must be changed or abandoned in order to continue the process of maturity. The abandoning of all sins requires a life-long and sometimes difficult process called sanctification (which we'll talk about next).
The real problem as I see it in churches today is that we don't understand the paragraphs above. Consequently, we all try to fake it. We try to look better than we are. We try to appear sinless.
That kind of hypocrisy is dangerous. Trust me. I know.