In the 17th century Sir Isaac Newton laid down three “laws of motion”. The third law stated that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Something similar sometimes happens in our spiritual lives. We sin, then experience a painful repentance.
In the Bible there are several examples where the deeper the pain, the deeper the repentance that is produced.
The first and perhaps the most poignant example we could look at is that of the apostle Peter. In Luke 22 Peter is saying to Christ that he is ready to suffer and die for His Master. Jesus gives Peter a reply that startles him.:
Further down in verses 54 to 62, we read of how Christ’s words came true:
After the resurrection Christ re-created the physical surroundings of Peter’s denial with a charcoal-fire breakfast and then asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Each time Peter replied, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” Now, the questions were not for Jesus’ sake. They were for Peter’s sake. Just as Peter denied Him three times, Christ wanted three affirmations of love, so that Peter’s resolve would be strengthened and he would be able to be the lead apostle and eventually die for Christ’s sake.
Here’s the incident as narrated by John:
When Christ asked, “Lovest thou Me?”, the first and second time, the Greek word used for love is agape which means the total unconditional love of God. When Peter tells Christ “Thou knowest that I love Thee,” the Greek word that Peter uses is philio, meaning brotherly love. After Peter replied with philo twice, the Lord used the same word when He asked for the third time “Lovest thou Me?”
One could surmise that Peter answered with philio and not agape because Peter felt truly humbled. He realized of his own strength that he could not promise the total unconditional love of God to Christ given that He had failed so miserably to do so when he denied Christ only days earlier. Instead he promised his best under the circumstances which was philio. When the Master used the word philo when He asked for the third time “Lovest thou Me?” it must have seemed to Peter that the Lord was questioning even his philo love.
So Peter began to see himself as the weak human being that he was; and the deep pain he felt from denying Christ thrice and from being questioned thrice about his love for the Lord. was instrumental in ridding him of the impetuousness that often got him into trouble. He eventually went on to become a great pillar in the early church of God and his epistles have many references to the benefits of trials in the Christian life in producing godly character.
The apostle Paul was another example of this principle of deep pain producing deep repentance. Before his conversion he was responsible for the persecution and death of many early Christians.
Can you imagine what it would have been like for Paul to preach before congregations in which, sometimes, sitting in the audience, were members who had family or friends whose deaths he was responsible for? Do you think that would have motivated him to go over and above most of the church leaders in serving God and the church?
One of Christ’s parables focuses on this same principle. Most of us are familiar with the parable of the prodigal son. A certain man had two sons. One of them was a rebellious teenager who asked for his share of his inheritance, left home and wasted his inheritance with prodigal living. His sins finally caught up to him and he found himself desperately in want.
In Luke 15:17 it says that he finally came to himself. He realised what an utter fool he had been. Through the deep pain of his awful circumstances, after squandering all of his money, he humbly turned his life around. He felt he was utterly unworthy to be called his father’s son and asked to be made as one of his fathers servants.
The other son was angry at how the father threw a feast for the returning rebellious son. In that is a caution to us not to look down on others, especially those we might consider rebellious now. Their eventual conversion could turn out to be at a far deeper level than our own when they may possibly react to deeper pain and sins in their own life. As Christ said in Matthew 20:16: “The last will be first and the first last”.
Often God will use trials to humble people when he calls them. It may be a major crisis like a divorce or a death in the family that puts someone in the frame of mind that will allow God to bring them to Himself.
An awareness of how far short one has fallen will often create a more intense desire to make up for the past and more deeply appreciate what God is offering us. A good example of this is the example of the woman who anointed Christ’s feel with expensive fragrant oil and her own tears.
In Luke 7:45 we read Christ saying to his host, “You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
Deep pain can not only produce deep repentance, it can also develop a much deeper appreciation for God’s calling and life in general than we might otherwise have. Most of us have been through our share of personal and church trials since we left our former association. I don’t know about you, but because of things I’ve gone through I find myself much more moved to tears at the love that God has shown me, and much more appreciative of friends and life in general than I would have otherwise.
In psychological terms the drive we have to make up for our weaknesses or wrongs we may have done in the past is called compensation. Many people with physical, mental and family handicaps have done remarkable things thoughout history because they have developed their strengths in their desire to compensate for their weaknesses and achieve esteem and self-confidence.
In a documentary on Lord Nelson who defeated the French at Trafalgar, one of the commentators made a comment that great men make great mistakes. I found that comment encouraging from the point of view that even if you make great mistakes you can still go on to do great things for God. A good example of this is in the faith chapter, Hebrews 11. It’s encouraging that when God chose to remember them in this chapter He chose to remember them by their great deeds and not by their faults. Regardless of how spectacularly you may have failed today you always have a fresh start from tomorrow on to become a great success if you learn from your mistakes. In fact, those mistakes may help you to be an even better sucess.
Isn’t facing up to sin negative thinking? There’s a lot of power and safety in negative thinking.it is negative thinking that makes me buckle my seat belt when I get into a car – I might get myself killed if I don’t…It is also negative thinking to look at what the scriptures say about God’s judgment and wrath and His promise to punish sin. But, if you only concentrate on positive thinking you’re going to eliminate a good part of what Jesus said… In the scriptures there is a balance between the positive and negative. If you only look at the negative you get depressed if you only look at the positive you live in unreality.
Like in a battery. the power of the gospel comes from the positive and the negative together. The negative is that sin is an evil that affects mankind. It warps, it destroys and ultimately it damns. The positive is that Jesus Chnst came and He loves each and every one of us…and He’s provided so great a salvation. That’s the most positive news that has ever been given. You can’t understand and really appreciate the positive without understanding and facing up squarely to the negative…
The apostle Paul writes the following in Hebrews 9:14, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
The Passover season which commences this year 2012 on the 6th April evening and ends on April 14th evening, focuses our minds on Christ’s sacrifice, on the incredibly deep pain that He voluntarily suffered to pay for all the awful sins we have committed in our lives. Paul urges us to let the awareness of the deep pain that Christ went through on our behalf motivate and inspire all of us on to the deepest level of repentance possible through the help and power of God’s Eternal Spirit.
Here’s a link to An Urgent Message to God’s Elect by B. H. Clendennen (includes two videos of the message delivered by Clendennen, the second just two or three weeks later than the first, and we see a more tired-looking Clendennen in the second video, striving to deliver the message of deep repentance, while he can.)