Throughout the Apostle Paul’s thirty plus years of taking the gospel to Israel and the Gentiles, he followed a clearly defined sequence in presenting the gospel. This order can also be applied to the whole life of a Christian. It is important to take notice of the sequence in Paul statement of his ministry.
“You know that I did not hold back from proclaiming to you anything that would be helpful, and from teaching you publicly and from house to house, testifying to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.” - Acts 20:21
First, repentance. Then faith. Here we have the two pivotal realities that activate salvation for everyone. Jesus Himself set the priority before Paul (Mark 1:15).
Each has its own directional focus. Repentance is toward God. Faith is specific toward one member of the Godhead, Jesus Christ. Both are God, as is the Holy Spirit. This is important because of the nature of both repentance and faith. Repentance toward Christ only is insufficient. It is not only Him who has been rebelled against, but the entire Godhead. Faith is directed into Jesus Christ, since it is only through Him that access can be gained to the Father. The Holy Spirit is functional in all and involved in all, but has a different scope of activity.
Lack of understanding of these priorities and functions leads in part to the tendency to leave other members of the Godhead out of consideration, or be ignored. Hence, we have extant in the world today a tolerance "God", but a reluctance to acknowledge Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Part of the result of this is the reluctance of many to even use the name Jesus when referring to God. In conversation it very difficult for some to even say the word "Jesus", "Christ", or Holy Spirit, but have less hesitancy about saying "God". Satan, as "god of this world", cannot be ignored in this. The last thing he wants is for more of humanity to recognize Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. They hear the word “God” often, in various contexts and circumstances. And the word “God” he has succeeded in reducing to a trivialization of God. The Holy Spirit is almost unknown in popular conversation. This too, is not surprising when we realize that it is the Holy Spirit who is the most directly active in the affairs of the world, even holding back events, or else allowing events to speed up (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8).
Understanding the sequence - Repentance, then Faith - is important in presenting the plan of salvation and preaching the gospel. Often faith is emphasized without the mention of repentance, or if it is, the hearers get the impression that it occurs as the result of faith first. Consequently, repentance gets pushed aside and lost in the order of knowledge and emphasis.
Thus we have what seems to be more and more the norm: those who profess faith in Christ, but have never really repented. At the very best, this results in stagnation of spiritual growth. They do not know that growth is required (2 Peter 3:18), but assume that growth will just occur as a consequence of faith. This can be tragic. Even the demons have faith (James 2:19-20)).
When the Apostle Peter wrote his last words to his audience, he encouraged them to seek after Christ’s grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18). Not grace and knowledge about the person lf Christ, but Christ own grace and knowledge. He meant for them to desire and to internalize the abundance of all that Jesus Christ is. To seek after information about Christ, does not assure the internalizing of His own grace and knowledge. He will impart and impute His own grace and knowledge into to us, if we are seeking first the repentance that enables faith in Him. This will lead us to a true seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Then, all our needs of life will be added. We will have our priorities in order (Matthew 6:33).
Set priorities in your life. Find and seek after the things that differ (Hebrews 5:14). This is the only true way to live - a life of spiritual growth, and of having all our needs filled, and most importantly, becoming more and more like our Lord and Savior. We have all probably heard the expression “first things first”. Nothing could be any more important in seeking God’s Kingdom than growing in His grace and His knowledge.
When an attitude of repentance is working in the heart, faith is also working and growing. In prayer, it is good to begin with a an introspection and examination of our living up to the time of our prayer. There can be no living without sin in some way in some degree (Proverbs 10:19).The Father already knows this about us. But He wants us also to know it, and to confess it to Him. There are moments in all our lives when we miss the mark of righteousness and holiness, that we need to survey in prayer. We should confess to our Father in heaven even secret sins (secret from us), that we are not even aware of. But He is.
This is the way we grow to trust Him. And in the process we also comprehend more and more just how much He loves us. In so doing, our heart and conscience is cleansed, we grow in faith, and God is glorified (1 John 3:18-22). A repentant heart - even a broken heart - purifies, cleanses, and frees our heart and mind. And we love Him because we know now, that He has first loved us (John 4:19).
Although our father already knows all, He wants us to tell Him about it in our own words, from our own heart.
And we know then, and are convinced, that we are completely forgiven.
“If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action]. If we say (claim) we have not sinned, we contradict His Word and make Him out to be false and a liar, and His Word is not in us [the divine message of the Gospel is not in our hearts]. - 1 John 1:9-10 (AmpBible)
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