Repentance and Christian Discipleship
J. Heinrich Arnold
Posted Wednesday, August 05, 2009
The Gospel begins with a call to repentance. Repentance means that everything must be changed. What was up must go down, and what was down must come up. Everything must be seen as God sees it. Our whole being has to be renewed; all thinking of our own has to cease. God must become the center of our thinking and feeling.
People dislike John the Baptist’s call, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” because they do not understand what repentance means. Repentance does not mean self-torment; nor does it mean being judged by others. It means turning away from the corruption and mammonism of fallen humankind and letting our hearts be moved by the atmosphere of the kingdom of God. Anyone who has gone through true repentance knows that it makes the heart melt like wax, that it shocks us by showing us our sinfulness. But that should not be the central experience. God must be the center of a repentant heart—God, who was revealed at the cross as love, and who alone brings reconciliation.
However strong our will to control ourselves, and however deceptive we are, God sees through everything into the depth of our hearts. Only the act of putting ourselves under his light gives us a chance for renewal. Everything is possible if we put ourselves willingly under the light of God. But if we refuse to do this, everything in our life is in danger.
It is one of the most wonderful things when a person truly repents. God comes so close to a repentant soul! A heart of stone becomes a heart of flesh, and every emotion, thought, and feeling changes. A person’s entire outlook changes when the gift of repentance is given to him. We must receive a new life; we must be changed. But it is God who must change us. And he may change us in a different way from what we had wanted or imagined. Our own ideals—our own plans for inner growth or personal change—must come to an end. Every lofty position must be given up; every high human striving sacrificed. To be fit for God’s new future we must be changed by him.
God’s love is like water: it seeks the lowest place. Yet we cannot make ourselves humble and lowly in our own strength. We can see ourselves for what we are only in the light of God’s omnipotence, love, purity, and truth.
Stop thinking about yourself, your past, and your depression. You will only become more depressed. That is not repentance. Think of your inner being as a clear pond that mirrors the sun, the stars, and the moon. If you stir up the mud at the bottom, everything will become unclear and cloudy, and the more you stir it, the cloudier it will get. Become quiet and stand firm against the devil. Then the water will clear again, and you will see in its mirror Christ’s love to you and to the whole world.
This article is composed of excerpts from the free ebook "Discipleship" by J. Heinrich Arnold.
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