Repent from dead lifestyles

We have already mentioned the need to repent from living in ways which stem from a lack of love for our Creator and the people He has placed around us. The need to commit ourselves to living differently cannot be overstressed. Repentance is more than being sorry or feeling remorse - both of these fade with time. Repentance is a commitment of your will to choose to love The LORD with all that you are all of the time. Of course no-one can do this by their own abilities, but The LORD will not force anyone into it against their will. He waits for an invitation from each person to step into their lives and help them change the way they have been living. Repentance describes what we do when we come to an end of ourselves and appeal to Him for urgent help.

Jesus always stressed that following Him was not easy and said that determination was essential on our part. One day, a very large crowd gathered to hear Him speak. He did not allow their enthusiasm to make Him water down His message. He began His teaching by saying, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Remember that Adam had chosen to love his wife more than he loved The LORD. Today the same temptation faces each one of us; who do we choose to make the priority in our lives? English translations of the Bible are unfortunately limited to the use of the word “hate” when they quote Jesus. Hatred is a harsh word which often suggests a desire to harm someone. That is not at all what Jesus meant here. Jesus was saying to the individuals in this crowd that there was no point in them following Him unless they loved their family less than they were prepared to love Him. Notice that He also widened the requirement beyond family to the need to love ourselves less than we love Him! Repentance is about changing our priorities. Most people live with themselves as their highest priority - we call it looking after number one. Sometimes we mistakenly justify this as “survival of the fittest”; God calls it sin.

Jesus continued to impress the cost of following Him upon this crowd by telling them, “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” This was long before He was to be crucified, but they would know how the Romans executed people so they would have understood the full impact of His words. Just as condemned criminals had to carry their own stakes to the execution site, Jesus was telling these potential disciples that they needed to live every day in the knowledge that they were dead to the lifestyles which used to be precious to them. Self, family and friends all had to be clung to less than they clung to Him. The LORD had to become their first love, and the message is the same today - He was telling them they could not have one foot in their old lifestyle and the other in being His disciple - it is all or nothing. To highlight the need for such single-mindedness, he cited the cases of a man who wanted to build a tower and a king who was planning to go to war. Both needed the wisdom to count the cost of their enterprises before they undertook them. Neither would want the embarrassment of setting forth then failing to fulfil their plans completely . To this Jesus added, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” In this way He was making it clear that half-hearted repentance is not repentance at all.

Why was Jesus so blunt with them and, by implication, with us? He knew how devious our sinful human nature is. Today, He is still fully aware how we all love a bargain. If we can get something on the cheap, we will do it. We are like this not just in the shops but in all our dealings, whether with God or with men. Jesus knew that if He didn't discourage people from trying to obtain salvation on the cheap, we would try to get it for as little as possible. He also knew that cut-price salvation would not work, because our supplies would run out before the project was completed. Despite His warnings, many still proclaim themselves to be His followers today but love Him less than they love themselves. Regarding those who don’t forsake everything to follow Him, He concluded His warning to the crowd in this way, “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Sadly, many still try to ignore Christ’s warnings in this respect today. It is not easy to lose our lives in the way Jesus calls us to. Many want to continue living in selfish ways, whilst having a form of “bolt-on” Christianity to guarantee them a good life in eternity as well. Jesus said this would not work and when it fails, those who tried it are like salt without flavour - they will be discarded as worthless. This is a strong warning and we encourage you to take it to heart. Your repentance must be as full as you can possibly make it - The LORD will help you discover what that means as you walk with Him. You will find yourself having to continually renew your commitment to love Him more than yourself or anyone else for that matter, for others have vested interests in you not doing so.

Next: Faith towards The LORD

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