Monday, October 3, 2016

Repentance vs. Penance


Whether, then, you eat or drink or WHATEVER YOU DO, 
do all to the glory of God.

I Corinthians 10:31


We often confuse repentance with penance.  

We do it all the time, that's why I chose the word "often."

There are things that we love, that we worship, that we know are idols and sin.  So when we withhold these things from ourselves while inwardly still longing for them, we think we are repenting and that God is happy about it.  We have convinced ourselves that abstaining from that activity is causing suffering that earns God's favor.  But our hearts haven't changed, our desires haven't changed, our thoughts haven't changed.  

Let's look at a few examples.  The woman who is struggling with her weight will look at the choice of an apple and a cupcake as a choice of pleasing God or pleasing her flesh.  So she chooses the apple so that God is happy, though everything in her wants the cupcake.  The man who secretly engages with pornography sees his choice as either pleasing the Lord or pleasing himself, so he walks away from the computer.  The teenager who can't stand the sound of his mother's voice but knows God wants him to obey will choose to live within her boundaries and count down the days till he can leave home.

Are these people this pleasing to God?  Are these people repentant?  Do their choices bring God glory?  Or are they self-inflicting a punishment, are they taking away something they truly desire, in order to make God happy?

True repentance is more than behavior modification.  True repentance flows from the heart.  Penance is more about behavior modification because it is suffering based, which implies personal sacrifice, and trust me, friends, God isn't looking for you to sacrifice and suffer for your sin.  He wants your heart.  He wants you to agree that your sin is hurting you.  He wants you to live within His boundaries because you know He is good and loves you, and that His ways are holy, righteous and true.  He wants true transformation that comes from giving up what you thought would make you happy in exchange for deep, eternal joy.

So the woman who looks at the apple now sees a healthy choice instead of suffering.  The man sees the destruction of his sin, and chooses purity and a clean conscience over the weight of secret lust.  The teenager willingly obeys his mother because he truly believes that she is a protection for him until he can be on his own and that God is working through her to shape and change him.  Ultimately, repentance flows from agreeing with God that our sin is not only an offense to Him but bad for us, as well.  The change that comes through repentance, while it is the best place for us to be, also brings immense glory to God because obedience produces lives that shine in a dark world, lives that point to something much greater, lives that reveal the love of a perfect Savior and Father.

"Repentance, as we know, is basically not moaning and remorse, but turning and change." J.I. Packer

1 comment:

  1. That makes alot of sense thank you for sharing

    ReplyDelete