Lesson One: Counterfeit Repentance
"Repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out"
"Repent of your wickedness"
In this series of lessons we will be taking a close look at repentance and what it means not only to non-believers but to Christians as well. It is the duty of each and every Christian to understand that repentance is not a one time deal. It is an every day thing that we must actually live. Before we can truly understand what repentance is, however, we need to understand what repentance is not.
Do you know what a counterfeit is? It is something that looks real but truly isn't. It is a fake. We have all heard of people who try to pass off "counterfeit" money as real cash. People who work at banks have to be very careful that they don't accept fake bills. They learn to do this by simply handling real money on a daily basis. Then when they come across a counterfeit or a fake, they know it is not real by just feeling it.
For those of us who don't handle money on a daily basis, we can be fooled and accept a fake. In the same way we can fool ourselves and others with counterfeit repentance. There are several ways of tricking yourself into thinking you have repented when you truly haven't. Let's look at three basic ways we can do this.
1. The deception of fear.
At some point in your life, especially if you attend church, you will hear of how God has raised a standard that we are expected to meet. This standard is called the Ten Commandments or the Law of God. The punishment for not meeting this standard is death. Naturally this scares all of us because no one wants to die. No one wants to be punished by being sent to hell. So our first response is to be fearful for our lives, to be troubled that we may be on our way to hell. But sorry to say, this is not true repentance.
This is guilt. This is fear. But this is not repentance. If being scared and worried about our eternal lives were repentance then everyone would be saved. Think about it. Who isn't worried about where they will go when they die? Even Christians can be troubled about this. Though there may be fear in your heart, if this fear doesn't produce a change and lead you to trust in Christ, it is not true repentance.
2. The deception of vows.
Do you know what a New Year's resolution is? It's when you promise to give something up or to do something better in the coming year. Most of us who have made these promises or vows know that nine times out of ten they are usually broken within a few days of making them. It is the same thing with counterfeit repentance. Making a vow to stop doing some particular sin or trying to be a better Christian is not true repentance.
Maybe you have heard stories of people who are sick and close to death. They cry out to God and say "God, if you heal me I will serve you for the rest of my life". Then what happens? They have their health returned to them and they never give another thought to God. Until they are sick again! How about a guy who is going to be sent to jail. He says "God if you let me off the hook, I will be good!" But once he is released from jail, he goes right back to his old ways.
Vows and oaths are useless. They cannot and will not produce true repentance. Look up these verses from Matthew:
3. The deception of a "clean life".
It is possible to actually give up certain sins in your life and think that you have repented. But think about this. There are many people who don't drink, or smoke. There are many people who don't cuss or break the law. Do you think that all these people are going to heaven? More importantly, do you think that they are going to heaven just because they gave up those things?
This last deception is probably the most trickiest one. Here's why:
Can you understand how easy it is to be deceived by giving up just some certain sins? Just because you give up one sin, yet cling to others, that is not repentance. If a slave is sold from one master to another, he is still a slave! Or how about giving up smoking because you are afraid of getting cancer-is that true repentance? Of course not.
Take your time and really think about the things we have learned in this lesson. In Lesson Two we will look at the life of the Apostle Paul and see how he was confronted by Christ and led to true repentance.