Breaking fellowship and repentance
The Rich Young Ruler came to Jesus asking, 'Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' The man's sin was lust and love for money and the status it brought him - but Jesus side-stepped the question and cut to who or what sat on the throne of his heart: "Why are you calling Me Good? No one is good but God." (In other words, 'Are you calling me God because you called Me good?')
The man didn't answer Jesus' question, so the Lord addressed his heart another way - "Sell all you have and come follow Me!" That forced the man to examine Jesus' question from another angle while exposing his true priorities: Is Jesus God or just a good man, and what do I love more; eternal life or money?
My point is that Jesus didn't focus on calling out that sin in his life - He simply went to the core issue of who is Jesus and what did he love most in life, money or God? Jesus still does this today for He never changes. When considering whether to break fellowship with a person, we must not get side-tracked on other issues, but need to look at the core issue in their life, and whether or not they are willing to change.
Repentance, or not?
The man in I Corinthians 5 who had a sexual relationship with his step-mother did in fact repent of his sin, which is acknowledged in II Corinthians 7. His desire for maturity in Christ was greater than his love of sex, to put it bluntly, and he repented of his sin and was restored to the fellowship of the saints.
There are 2 Greek words translated 'repent' or 'repentance'. The first is 'metanoeo', and means 'to perceive afterwards'. The root words are 'meta' - after, and 'noeo' and 'nous' - perceive and mind. It means to realize something after you've done it, with the implication you are changing your mind once you perceive it. This is used in the Bible of a true and Godly repentance.
The other word is 'metamelomai', from 'meta' - after, 'melo' - to care about/for, and it means 'regret'. This word is used to describe someone caught in the act and so they 'repent', or someone who's plan did not work out so they 'repent' - they are sorry, but only that their plan did not work out as they hoped. It is self-focused and revolves around the fact they got caught or their plan didn't work, so they regret that.
It is used of Judas in Matthew 27:3: "Then Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He was condemned, repented and brought the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders..." Judas didn't repent to God, he was sorry his plan to force Jesus to prove himself as God's Son didn't work out. Judas regretted within himself his plan failed, not to God.
David's true repentance
In II Samuel 12 David is confronted by Nathan about his relationship with Bathsheba, which was founded on lust, lies, and murder. David lusted for her when he saw her bathing, had her husband killed, and then covered it up. But David says in verse 13 when confronted: "I have sinned against the Lord."
If it was the false repentance of Judas, David would have said, 'I'm sorry my deception didn't work out' or 'Oops! You caught me and I'm so sorry.' But instead David realized the core of his heart, the core of the issue - "I have sinned against the Lord."
Thus true repentance is always the result of revelation. Revelation is what the whole kingdom of God works on, and this is revelation that what I did was at its core, against God. That is what we are looking for in someone who is on the verge of losing us as friends, losing our fellowship, being asked to attend another church, even losing their marriage - we are looking for Godly repentance founded upon a revelation from heaven of the true nature of their sin. We are looking for a spiritual 'light bulb' of revelation to click on where they suddenly say 'I get it'. And we are so sad when we only see Judas' type of repentance or none at all.
Repentance from revelation is the power of deliverance and the start down the path to wholeness
This is seen in David and Bathsheba's marriage, founded upon lust, lies, and murder, but by grace healed and resulting in Solomon! Solomon quotes his father through the first 9 chapters of Proverbs, and in 4:3-4 tells of the love of his father and mother for him - what a turn around in that marriage! But they had to go through the door of true repentance to attain the wholeness they sought. It is the same for us today.
As it relates to the person in our midst (house church/close fellowship) who is living in fornication, or a liar or dishonest in business or an addict or plants strife, we sometimes have to separate from them because there is no true repentance, there is no revelation in their heart that they are sinning against God. They may apologize they got caught, or regret how they hurt you, but that is what Judas did - even turning in the money so it looked all neat and tidy and genuine!
Paul described true repentance in II Corinthians 7: 10-11 as 'a Godly sorrow that won't be repented of'. He uses the 2nd repentance here, regret - meaning the person has revelation in his heart that it is a sin against God, which causes Godly sorrow, and once a person has that revelation and sorrow they will never regret that they repented, they will never regret serving God.
But what if...
What if they are like what Jesus described in Luke 17:4, they repent to you 7 times in a day, and Jesus said, 7 times in that day you will forgive him. Isn't each of those 7 times a false repentance? Maybe, but maybe that person is just working through the revelation and battling through their love of momentary pleasure of sin and their love of God.
For though he went away sorrowful the day Jesus invited him to become a disciple, very old church tradition says the Rich Young Ruler eventually did sell all he had to follow Jesus, which is seen in Acts 4:36-37 when he lays the proceeds at the apostle's feet and they rename him, Barnabus.
If a person's heart is still pliable, workable, clay in the Master's hand, then they are working their way through the 7 times in a day of sin, repent, sin, repent process towards wholeness.
But if they harden their heart as the man who was having sex with his stepmother initially did, or we see only Judas' type of repentance, we must separate from them for our house church's sake or our own well-being.
The gifts and calling of God are without repentance - Romans 11:29
Oftentimes people will look at their lives and wonder if the call of God is still on them as in years past, or have years of the world and backsliding made it so that they have missed God completely. And Romans 11:29 is rightly used to say it is NOT too late, the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
But there is a deeper truth in the Greek than what is translated in English. The word 'repentance' here is not David's type of repentance, like we would think when speaking of God. It is the false repentance of Judas that is used here, meaning regret.
What Paul is writing is this - The gifts and calling of God in you are things He will never be sorry His plans (in this life) for you didn't work out. He will never regret within Himself He called you and gave you gifts. He will never be sorry or regret within Himself that He invested His Son in you. He will never, ever, regret creating you or gifting you or calling you. He invested in you for eternity, and He will never been sorry for that - wow!
Next week, how to receive revelation that leads to true repentance.
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