After all, if we were found in Christ before we were lost in Adam, does our REPENTANCE count for anything? Since the New Testament and Jesus especially, talk about REPENTANCE, I should have an answer.
Most evangelical Christians have heard that our REPENTANCE is something we must do as a step in connecting with God's salvation. When I ask people what they think REPENTANCE means, the conversation goes something like this:
PEOPLE: "REPENTANCE is realizing we have sinned, saying I'm sorry and asking for forgiveness."
ME: "When you say sorry, do you have to be sincere or just say the words?"
PEOPLE: "You have to be sincere."
ME: "How sincere do you have to be? I mean, when do you know for sure that you have been sincere enough?"
You can see where this logic leads. We can never be sorry enough, sincere enough or believing enough ... and we know it.
If there is a single human performance link in the chain that unites to God - we are doomed.
Whatever needs to be done to unite us to God must be done by HIM.
So now we can talk about how Jesus sees REPENTANCE. His most extensive teaching on this subject is found in his parables of the lost sheep, the coin, and the son in Luke 15.
A shepherd finds a lost sheep who will die without rescue and Jesus says, "In the same way, I tell you there is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who REPENTS..."
QUESTION: What was the lost sheep's REPENTANCE?
A coin gets lost and a woman searches high and low to find it. Jesus says, "In the same way I tell you, there is rejoicing in heaven in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who REPENTS."
QUESTION: What did the lost coin do that in any way resembles our popular view of REPENTANCE?
Jesus teaches that REPENTANCE is like being found by a good shepherd or a determined housekeeper when we are helpless to do or say anything. The sheep and coin did nothing and contributed nothing to being saved.
REPENTANCE, according to Jesus, is letting ourselves be found.
REPENTANCE is like being welcomed home, which brings us to the lost son. The prodigal comes home because he is hungry and looking for food. The Father goes out and saves him. The coin, the sheep, and the son do nothing like our common view of REPENTANCE.
REPENTANCE is waking up to the truth that we are already accepted and then accepting our acceptance.
REPENTANCE is the experience of being found.
Admitting our sin and saying sorry to God is entirely appropriate, but this is not REPENTANCE and doesn't save us.
The Father of Jesus, who is also our Father, does it all.