Gospel for Me, Gospel for You: Repentance Stories
Christians who have known Christ for a while sometimes struggle with their testimony. “My story is boring.” “I got saved so long ago, I can’t even remember it all.” I was saved at age five — it wasn’t very interesting.”
But the story we have to share is the story of our ongoing repentance. It’s the “gospel for me” as we like to call it. It starts with Mark 1:14-15 — “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the the gospel.”
Here are a few thoughts about the gospel for me…a Christian. Understanding and living this gives us fresh stories to share about the work of the gospel in our life now, not twenty years ago.
Biblical repentance is turning around—like a U-Turn. It means changing our mind about sin (I want to put it behind me and I'm sorrowful about what I've done), about ourselves (I crucify my sinful desires; I turn my back on self-indulgence; I repent of self-reliance), and toward God (His holiness is for my good, not my harm).
We cannot become a Christian without repentance, and we cannot grow without regular repentance. Acts 17:30-31. In fact, growth IS the habit of repentance and turning to Christ in faith. Repentance must be the lifestyle of a Christian if we are going to grow. Here's a little ditty to help us remember this idea: Repentance is the key to the gospel for me.
How do we know if repentance is genuine? 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 helps. It includes this list of signs of a truly repentant heart (see Richard Owen Roberts' book, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel.):
• Earnestness (taking seriously the commitment to leave the sin)
• Eagerness to clear yourself (by confessing it)
• Indignation (with your sin)
• Fear (not of the consequences, but of a holy God)
• Longing (for holiness)
• Zeal (about what brings holiness)
• Punishment/Avenging (meaning "paying back" anything I can because of my sin, like Zaccheus)
Yes, repentance is hard. It’s hard because we are busy, we are prideful and we are often less than zealous about holiness. But if we are the sort of person who can never admit we are wrong, we will be in chronic conflict with others. And this is a testimony of the enemy at work, not Christ.
Though it takes work to bring our hearts to the point of genuine repentance, it is a deep and joyful blessing. There is a wonderful relief in our hearts when we repent. God has made it that way. He has designed ALL things to revolve around and glorify his Son Jesus Christ. It’s Jesus who led the way of humility and then joy—the humility of the cross and the joy that followed the resurrection. It’s Jesus who empowers us to live this way. This is the gospel being lived out in our lives each day.
If we are living a lifestyle of repentance, then we have a story to share when we call others to repent of their sin and turn to Christ in faith. My co-worker, Rich, came to faith as an adult—ten years after he wife came to faith. It was a tough road. One of the turning points was a golf game with a friend. As Rich was on the green, his Christian friend told Rich about a fight he had had with his wife the previous evening. And he told about how they resolved it in light of Ephesians 4:26. It was a story of repentance and reconciliation. And Rich was shocked—that a Christian couple had a fight, and that God helped them resolve it what way. It was a powerful testimony to Rich about the work of the gospel in the life of a Christian. And it was a significant turing point in his coming to faith.
We grow through the habit of regular repentance from sin. As we do, we continue to write our testimony. It’s a testimony of turning from sin, turning to Christ, turning to the cross. As you invite others to repent of sin and turn to Christ, show them how it’s going for you too.