I was cogitating on a post by the Prodigal Daughter on holiness last week and went down a series of rabbit trails that were a lot of fun. I eventually ended up on the subject of repentance, and made one of those silly little connections that helps with lots of little things. There's really nothing to it, hence I have the time to put it into a post even during this "operational pause," but it helped me enough to want to type it out.
I won't quite make a syllogism of this, but just a chain of thought.
1) Repentance is a change of direction. It's a turning.
2) But, all turning is not repentance. Turning from one sin to another is not repentance.
3) So, repentance is turning to God.
4) The aha moment... Holiness is staying turned toward God.
There's even a verse that implies as much.
2 Cor 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
I'm sure everyone has forgotten that I was recently talking about how to be assured that you are a Christian, and not merely giving mouth witness to the faith. James and John draw some clear lines, but Jonathon Edwards drew them together in a way I really appreciated. The subject was dear to his heart, because of the way the Great Awakening was hijacked by false believers, and the way that the true believers were vilified by those who thought the whole Great Awakening was nothing but an emotional freakshow.
A false believer can do everything that James and John mention, but they cannot love the holiness of God for its own holy sake. A false believer can obey, and care for his neighbor and profess all the doctrines of the catechism correctly, but he is doing it out of an awe of God, not a love for Him. He is either awed by God's power, judgement, and threats or lured by God's kindness, free gift, and promises; but never does he taste that the Lord is good.
I know I wrote this before, but I don't know if I actually posted it. :8( Forgive me if I am repeating myself. The person with no mouth sees the honey, and watches its beautiful, golden hue, its thick, satisfying consistency, its many forms and uses. This person hears honey described by others as tasty and energizing, so he uses the same terms. He calls it delicious and sweet, but he knows nothing about what he is affirming, and he doesn't even know that he knows nothing.
The difference is taste.
We have tasted and known that the Lord is good. But makes up His goodness? It consists primarily in His holiness. It is the purity of God that makes Him lovely. A bride wears a white dress and she is lovely, but God is very whiteness. God is Love, but the beauty of God is not that He "loves us." The beauty of God is that He is Love. Whether He loved us or not, His lovingness would be the same, and therefore His loveliness would be the same. It is the very purity of His love, His being, that makes Him lovely.
(There's room to quibble that if He did not love us, then He would not be perfect any more. I am trying to express something too big for my language, and there is room to quibble all through this post. It's just all I can do.)
The one born from above, born in spirit, truly born again is the one who has tasted the complete, natural, whole perfection in the Father and in His Son and fallen in love with this invisible Someone.
And we can all pretty much tell when someone is in love.
Repentance is turning toward God, and because He is our deepest love, it's something we want to do. Repentance is realizing that I cannot simultaneously love God and turn my back on Him. I cannot say I love God and disdain my brother. I cannot say I love God and never unburden my heart before Him. I cannot say I love God and never find joy in Him (in contrast to His gifts to me.) If I love Him, I will seek out ways to enjoy Him and give Him joy.
It is by this that Paul can say such amazingly bold things as, "To the pure all things are pure." He knows that the pure want to stand before Him Whom they love, and that their greatest fear is to hinder themselves from His presence. Their flesh will betray them, but they will overcome the flesh in due time, especially as their brothers and sisters stand by to lift them up and encourage them.
This view of repentance also adds a certain depth to the petition of the Lord's prayer, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us."
"Forgive us for turning aside from you, and we forgive those who turn aside from us," is much more meaningful and personal to me than trying to recount all the times I coveted or bore false witness. It also allows me to live in peace with my brothers with whom I disagree. If I approach God from the west and a brother approaches Him from the east, the questions are whether we are both beholding Him, and whether we ever turn away from each other. The question is not whether he eats kumquats after nightfall (no matter how important that doctrine may seem) but whether he eats them unto the Lord. And the question is whether we build each other up in love despite our kumquat conflict.
Holiness is our greatest desire, and it is His greatest gift. It is in Christ that we receive the right to face God, and from the Spirit that we receive the power to do so. And in facing Him, we are transformed into His image, from glory to glory. And it is only in holiness, in open view of Him and each other, that we can truly love.
So, the repentance of which we need never repent is simply to face God. No matter how often we must repent or to whom, we simply face God again and again and again. We find in Him that miracle of holiness that allows Him to embrace us in our sin, and rather than our impurity transfering to Him, His purity transfers to us. We are cleaned in Christ, and as we turn back to His face, and rest and trust in Him, we are changed into His image.
It was kind of a big rabbit trail and a big circle from the Prodigal Daughter's post, to repentance being a turning to God, to facing God being the essence of holiness, but I found it helpful.
[I hope to get a little "Jim and Brenda" work up early next week. They are on my heart, but a couple other things are more so this week. Please bear with me. :-)]