The act of repentance rises from out of the wide range of the human emotional experience we refer to as ‘feelings.’
Among them we number ‘shame’ and ‘sorrow.’ These are emotional reactions that conjure up deep feelings of the heart. They can, genuinely, lead us to brokenness, both emotionally and spiritually.
Often, this state arises when least expected and more than likely, when, for the first time, we look deeply within ourselves and are visibly repulsed by what we see.
Overall, it can lead us to walk the road of contrition.
Although some might logically argue that I’ve put the cart before the proverbial horse and it is actually contrition that leads to repentance. For the sake of this discourse, let’s just say (in the words of an old song), ‘They go together like a horse and carriage!’
Did you ever read the Portrait of Dorian Gray, written by the Irish author/playwright, Oscar Wilde?
A strange and exotic moral tale. It follows the visible disintegration and torment of a man’s soul as it descends into the foulest depths of depravity that is reflected upon the canvas of his own painted portrait.
Gray inherits a vast fortune. Amongst the ‘hangers-on’ that suddenly materialize (in the form of those wanting to share his willingly dispensed largesse) is one particular guy who befriends Gray and wins his trust. Truly a satanic influence and figure, he leads our anti-hero into the cess-pit that was London during the 19th century.
Dorian Gray was exceedingly fresh-faced, albeit very handsome. He is persuaded to have a leading artist paint his portrait. The finished work portrays him as the exceedingly handsome and attractive male he was. Distraught that his beauty will fade while the portrait stays beautiful, he makes a satanic bargain in which only the painted image grows old while he stays beautiful and young.
The portrait is a real talking point amongst Gray’s new ‘friends.’ In a sense, it is even, if possible, more attractive than the flesh from which it was painted. However, the diabolical pact begins to become apparent. As Gray himself becomes more and more debauched by the foul lifestyle he now leads, it doesn’t show on his person. And his face remains absolutely as handsome as it ever was. It is the replica of his face, as painted on the canvas, that changes.
He becomes alarmed lest others should find out.
Gray can no longer afford to display the portrait in its former central location in his Drawing Room. It is removed to a locked cloister, adjacent to the attic in the uppermost regions of his mansion. Only Gray has the key and can enter. Though he puts it off, he is continually drawn to gaze upon it, even as it becomes a monstrous caricature of what he once was.
What has the author enabled us to do? I’ll get to that.
Suffice to say, that all fiction draws heavily upon fact. And there were aspects of Wilde’s own life that, from the perspective of what we might refer to as ‘decency,’ left a lot to be desired. He was highly gifted in a literary sense, but equally highly flamboyant with an almost sardonic disregard for the hypocritical conventions of the Victorian era. Hypocritical because, although reputation was a highly sought convention, as demonstrated by status and standards of decency, decadence thrived underneath. This can be historically evidenced by the ravages that ‘social’ diseases made upon high society and the nobility of the time.
Remember that old saying, We are what we eat?
When we plumb the depths of iniquity, eventually, though we try to hide it, all is revealed.
For example, the face and body of the full-on alcoholic and that of a person who becomes drug- addicted eventually reflect the full extent of the damage.
We often go to great lengths to disguise what is happening and the ‘thing’ which we are becoming.
Both in our psychological persona and upon ‘the body beautiful,’ we attempt to paint over the cracks that are suddenly appearing.
The paint we apply is a facade of lies and personal deception, particularly, as we attempt to hide our fall from loved ones and, pertinently, our employer. And for a time, we may well ‘get away with it.’
Eventually, however, the facade cracks and we become revealed as we really are.
All of our efforts, including the road to dissipation that we chose to walk, are known to God. No matter how beautiful the façade we applied and the lies that mixed the paint of deception, there is no secret place in which we can secretly hide the foul and disgusting things that we all do or think, (even if we don’t act upon the thought).
When we look upon ourselves, there are never any visible cracks on the outside of our ‘beautiful’ façade of lies. It is inside, within that carefully guarded, secret place, that lies the foul and disgusting things that we attempt to hide. Particularly, from those we love most.
It is that place that Jesus referred to as a ‘man’s heart.’
Matthew 15:17-20 “Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man.”
Quoting Arthur Blessit:
Jesus is teaching that the outward actions of a person often do not reflect what is in the heart. Jesus declares that it is what is in the heart that truly matters. It is that which is within that God sees. The heart reflects to God the good and the evil.
Now if you or I have committed adultery in the heart and, yet, not followed through with physical intercourse, are you less a sinner than someone who has had physical sexual relations with another outside of marriage?
Jesus did not seem to think so. As a matter of fact, Jesus was clear about it. He pointed it out.
Most of the fifth chapter of Matthew is dealing with religious people who think they are righteous and obey the law. But Jesus is showing that hate is murder, greed is a thief, and lust is adultery!
Now consider this. All the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament and the Bible that deal with adultery applies to YOU and Me who are adulterers because of lust in the heart.
That is why when the religious were going to stone the woman caught in adultery, Jesus said:
“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7). (end quote):
These are the kind of things we would hide because we know that they indicate that we have some sort of sickness in our soul. Though we do not want to gaze upon it, inexorably, like Gray, we are drawn to do so.
Some, like moths to the flame, will be drawn on and on until, eventually, they are consumed, as they keep going back to ‘drink at the trough’ of corruption. Ultimately, the spirit of denial sees them forever lost.
Others, however, no longer able to live the lie, become open to the Holy Spirit as they open their hearts in abject poverty of spirit. And finally, in repugnance, they do all they can to climb out of the pit into which they either had descended, or else were most certainly far down its slippery slope.
In this, you see emerging the roots of ‘repentance.’ They arise out of this inner need that suddenly confronts us when we discover that we can no longer continue to live this way. Nor, can we effectively live with the hurt we are invariably inflicting upon those nearest and dearest to us.
A man, woman or child must have within him the desire to ‘need’ repentance. And it grows, it no longer can be contained.
Ultimately, as the Spirit of God moves within us, it bursts forth and we seek Jesus. This is the act we refer to as ‘contrition.’ It leads those, so fortunately blessed, directly to brokenness and confession as the dam suddenly breaks.
We can no longer walk the paved road to Hell. And we beg to be shown how to walk the narrow path to redemption through the Grace that God provides, only through Jesus.
First-time readers, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ; that path leads directly before the Throne of the Living God, The Great, ‘I am that I am!’
The first time God says I AM (“I AM WHO I AM”) – the Hebrew says, “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh,” which translates as “I will be what I will be” – occurs when God tells Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent you” (Exodus 3:14).
ALL THINGS COME HOME AT EVENTIDE LIKE BIRDS THAT WEARY OF THEIR ROAMING:
It is more and more apparent, however, that though birds seek their rest at the end of the day, returning to their nocturnal roost, few human beings now seek the way Home.
Mankind, in his present form, is personified by in-grounded stubbornness. And that stubbornness is led by an increasingly wayward heart.
Man (man/woman/child) has, in the main, steadfastly refused to contemplate repentance.
HOW THEN DOES REPENTANCE DEVELOP AND GROW?
My own experience is like many other brothers and sisters I’ve spoken with.
It was when the Holy Spirit breached the stone-wall of my ‘heart’ and pierced me through to the rot at the very core of my being.
And at last, I saw myself then as I knew that God saw me.
Broken-hearted and shamed, there was only one way for me to go. I didn’t walk it. Within that experienced state, I literally crawled like the rat I was and knelt before Jesus, crying, “In the name of God, forgive me!”
In essence, I gave up that pile of junk I refer to as, ‘that done or left undone.’ I laid upon Jesus the burden that had shamed me before God, repenting the untold damage I had done to others as I did it my way! caring nought for anyone or anything, except myself.
In my view, I ‘see’ a boil of pus that was lanced by Jesus as His Grace fell upon me. It was that perverted spirit of denial of the Living God that dwelt within me. It had also grown out of my renunciation of His right to be worshiped by me as He was entitled to be so, by all flesh of His own Creation, made as he said, ‘in our image.’
On the outside, I was God-fearing, well-churched and involved in church administration, the services and Bible study. That was NOT me; for, secretly, I had opened the door to Hell.
Through this wide-open door, Satan entered. True repentance cast him out. As I slammed and bolted the door behind him, I prayed he would never re-enter.
Like the reforming alcoholic, I don’t deny my past; and though the shame will never leave me, I declare myself every day. Albeit, that I will never forget the ease with which I fell as I give thanks for the grace that saved me.
My dear friends, ‘repentance’ is the exorcism that stabs Satan to the heart. It is the silver bullet that shatters his breast, as Bram Stoker described the ways to destroy the mythical vampire.
My redemption did not take place within church, nor was I helped by priest or pastor.
It was within my own home. A sanctification held in secret between our Great High Priest and me. I knew instinctively that as I gave myself up to Jesus, I had come before God. This was between Him and me.
Brokenness, confession and prayer are the weapons of choice, given us by God. Through constant usage, they defend us from the present master of this fallen world. Used in conjunction with the Holy Word of Scripture, we are become as invincible warriors of faith.
Remember Luke 18:13, the prayer of a poor publican—the penitent, earnest cry of a broken-hearted sinner, who went up into God’s holy temple, but had such a sense of his sin and guilt, that he dared not come nigh, and, “standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Jesus said that this man left the Temple, forgiven. He had replaced denial with the confession of true repentance, such was the weight of the burden he was carrying when he began to pray.
How much better off are we to have the intermediary of Jesus who can wash us so clean that God sees no sin in us!
To the ‘lost’ and those who feel without hope, I ask, “what’s holding you back?” Surely, this is such a small step. It is, however, one small step that enables you to cover a massive distance as you go from ‘lost’ to ‘found.’
However, when we are held in bondage, as ‘we’ give ourselves and the remainder of our lives over to the spirit of denial, these weapons become unavailable to us. We are, therefore, left defenseless, and we will, in all instances and every circumstance, eventually be held in thrall to Satan.
Ultimately, if we remain locked within this state (having made no effort to extricate oneself, or even felt need to do so), denial becomes validated by a state of permanence. And remaining lost, we are given over to be consumed by the wages of sin.
Our ultimate fate is to be swept away, unshriven, soul-destroyed and lost in eternal separation from God.
Truly, those coming to Jesus must understand that, by the very nature of His being, God will not know us if we were to attempt to come to Him other than through Jesus. The approved path must take us along the path of Grace I have described.
Some are presently preaching that there are other, perhaps many other, paths to God. A New Age and Social Justice mantra sung to sinners who have little intention of renouncing and turning from their chosen sins. This heresy is a mendaciously foul lie; and I call out prelate, priest or pastor who would attempt to teach it.
I warn all such heretics that their fate is assured because of those, who in ignorance, they lead astray.
In Part III we take a look at the emergence of “Churchianity.”