Recently on my day off, I ran errands in my town. I went to the library, grabbed some lunch and then went to Thursday Bible Study at Unity Worship Church. Cartersville. I had been introduced to the pastor online via a new connection from the “Be the Bridge” book release. Pastor Sebastian Holley, PhD, is the lead pastor and founder of the church that meets in a storefront.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but blessed to be among a welcoming community who love the Lord and are committed to grow in their faith.
The Bible study was lesson 12 from a study written by Dr. Holley called “Faith Identity: Living your truth by connecting to The Truth”. I wasn’t sure if I could jump in right in the middle, but I rediscovered that God meets us where we are. All I can say is, if the rest of the book is as intense as Chapter 12, brace yourself!
The lesson is titled “Repentance Rewarded” and through this teaching, I see a new perspective to living in hopefulness and joy in walking with the Lord, even when facing hard things.
“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 3:1-2
At one time I might have interpreted this scripture to mean “get right with God or you will burn in hell!” That is one way to take in this reading. Another way, is to take joy in knowing a reward is coming. Celebrate our God of forgiveness and live in the hope that comes from trusting in Him.
In this attempt to summarize what I learned and examine scripture, I am also combining my study of works from Emmanuel Swedenborg, a scientist in the 1700’s who wrote about his religious experiences and beliefs. I learned about Swedenborg from an obituary on my 3rd great grandfather that stated that he and his wife, Susan “became students of Emmanuel Swedenburg’s writing and enjoyed the wonderful spiritual and intellectual uplift which such study gives to a seeker after true religion.”
In his work True Christianity (§528), Emmanuel Swedenborg lists four steps to active repentance: examine yourself, recognize and admit your sins, pray to the Lord, and begin a new life.
I guess I thought repentance was a one-time thing. Something we did when we came to acknowledge and believe in God. However, I also understood that we need to confess our sins regularly. Confession is only one part of the complete repentance process, and it involves more than just using words.
Swedenborg has much to say about repentance. “Our evils live in our will; that is the source of all the evil things we do physically. Therefore if we do not search out evils in our thoughts and our will, we will be unable to repent, because afterward we will have the same thoughts and intentions as we had before; and intending evils is the same as doing them. This therefore is what self-examination entails.” (New Jerusalem §164)
In our worldly ways, we might try to avoid this process. It is painful and brings on shame and guilt, and sometimes even self-loathing. Shake it off. God doesn’t want condemnation, He wants our trust and obedience.
Better yet, Dr. Holley tell us “when repentance is fueled by principles of right relationship, it grants power.” Hallelujah!
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
Forgiveness and healing!
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Forgiveness and purification!
Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. Acts 3:19
Times of refreshing!
There is power in repentance! You can take that to the bank! No sitting around hoping that it worked! If God said it, believe it. Celebrate! Go, and sin no more!
Dr. Holley offers this advice about repentance: “Reshape your focus. Be available for correction as an opportunity for growth.”
Thank you Lord for loving us so much that you offer forgiveness and renewal. Help us to accept your gracious offer and walk joyfully in your promises.