Thursday, March 17, 2011

Repenting Too Late?

The infamous Judas Iscariot sold the Son of God for a bag of money and then betrayed his friend with a kiss, after enjoying a meal with him! Can anyone think of a more heinous sin? In fact, Jesus actually said "it would have been better for that man if he had not been born" (Matthew 26:24, ESV). Better for Judas if he had not been born, but not better for God's people who are redeemed by Jesus' blood; for Judas' great sin was ordained and used by God to bring about the events of our reconciliation to God (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28).

But after Judas had done the deed, he had second thoughts:
"...he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, 'I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.' They said, 'What is that to us? See to it yourself.' And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself." Matthew 27:3-5, ESV
He changed his mind. This is the Greek word metamelomai. The ESV Study Bible notes point out that "Judas experienced feelings of regret and remorse, but this is less than 'repentance' (Greek metanoia), which means a change of heart." So close to repentance! But so far away. Judas did not experience true repentance, with faith, being born again, and living for Christ. By contrast, the apostle Peter denied Jesus and repented. The rest of Peter's life evidenced the truth of his repentance and the genuineness of his faith in Jesus. Judas, however, went and "hanged himself."

The Bible describes a false sorrow that can look like repentance, but is not:
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, ESV
There is a godly grief, or sorrow, that comes with true repentance. It leads to salvation - life! But just being sorry for your 'mistakes' does not equal this godly grief. Judas had "worldly grief" which "produces death."

Perhaps we also see a glimpse of this worldly grief in Esau. Scripture calls Esau "unholy," pointing out that he sold his birthright "for a single meal." Then we are told, "For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears" (Hebrews 12:16-17, ESV). Esau wanted the blessing from his father, but could not produce in himself true repentance.

We must repent; we must humble ourselves before God. But we also must be warned that there is a false repentance - a worldly grief that only produces death. Feeling sorry, changing our minds about what we have done, disliking the consequences of our foolish choices and sins against God - all these things are not enough. We must repent of our sins and turn to Jesus Christ in faith, before it is too late.

The good news is that Jesus will receive all who come to him in faith and true repentance. Even after Peter fell, Jesus lovingly restored him and used him greatly. Peter received grace to finish well. No matter how you've blown it, God's grace can restore, heal, forgive. Will you humble yourself before Christ and repent of your sins, trusting in Jesus' death and resurrection? Don't wait till it's too late!

Oh, the great love of God in Christ!

1 comment:

Amy said...

This is great! I never considered the contrast between Judas and Peter. That's very cool. Thanks for sharing.