What is Repentance

The world is panicking and locking down in “response” to a virus. Some are asking, is God “angry” with mankind? The answer should dictate your response.

Why is this happening? A virus is “grinding” the world to a halt. Countries are locking down, closing borders and banning public gatherings. Sports, tourist attractions and major events are being canceled. Cities are eerily quiet. Masses of people are being forced to stay home. Hoarding is rampant. Store shelves are empty. Shoppers are panicking. Businesses are being destroyed. Stocks are plunging, and economies—national and global—are being ravaged.

What can we learn from this extraordinary event? When we experience this kind of “disruptions” and “trials” we need to learn what we can from it. We don’t want to stumble through and hope everything ends as quickly as possible simply so we can return to life exactly as before.

You need to know what the Bible says. You need to know what a Christ follower’s response should be. You need to know how to react, physically and spiritually, because even more serious crises are coming.

United States President Donald Trump declared Sunday, March 15, a “National Day of Prayer” for all Americans affected by the coronavirus pandemic and for our national response efforts.

In a White House statement, the president noted that though a lot of churches were closing, “in this time we must not cease asking God for added wisdom, comfort and strength, and we must especially pray for those who have suffered harm or who have lost loved ones.” He asked for people “to pray for God’s healing hand to be placed on the people of our nation,” to “pray for the health and well-being of your fellow Americans, and to remember that no problem is too big for God to handle. With God’s help, we will overcome this threat.”

It was a fairly “tame” proclamation. It said nothing about why God might be “allowing” this pandemic. It avoided talk of “humbling” ourselves before God or “seeking” to restore God’s favor. It didn’t mention “repentance” or turning from “sin.” It merely recommended asking God for “comfort, strength, protection, health and healing.”

Still, many people reacted viscerally. They ridiculed prayer as being “anti-science.” One woman tweeted: “Wishful thinking isn’t going to make testing and care available to those who are sick. Wishful thinking isn’t going to feed people or pay their bills. It doesn’t keep us warm or safe from harm.” Muslima Rashida Tlaib issued a vulgar response “scorning” national prayer.

Others demanded separation of “church and state”, as if encouraging voluntary prayers is somehow “enforcing” a state religion. One woman tweeted: “This goes against everything the founding fathers stood for.” Apparently she is unaware that America’s founders were “deeply religious” and praised and thanked the “Creator God” in the nation’s “Declaration of Independence.” Among them were men like John Adams, who said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

In the overall national conversation on the news, “God” is not being talked about. Instead, you are hearing from every “doctor, scientist, celebrity and pundit” regarding containment measures and “projecting” worst-case scenarios. You are hearing experts “speculate” that around two thirds of the world’s population could get the disease, and that tens of millions could die.

This is creating a lot of “fear, anxiety and hysteria.” Most of the “shocks” to stock markets have not come from problems already hitting, but from “fear” of problems that could hit. Shortages in groceries and general stores mostly aren’t resulting from problems with supply, manufacturing or distribution, but from “fear, panic and hoarding.” Plenty of food, toilet paper and other essentials still exist, but people are “frantically” grabbing more, looking greedily after themselves and their own.

This is exposing some “ugly truths” about ourselves…truths certain to prove extremely “relevant” in the time ahead. We are getting a preview of how people “react” in crisis while the Bible teaches “far more and far worse” crises are coming.

“What would happen if a more lethal disease or an environmental or financial disaster actually disrupts the supply chain? What if earthquakes or other natural phenomena destroy infrastructure or wipe out food production, or long-term economic depression hits, or currency values collapse, or we suffer an energy embargo, or terrorist strikes, perhaps nuclear, biological or chemical weapon attacks occur in several cities?”

Such threats are very “real” and much more “devastating” than a virus.

Just watch how people are behaving in this comparatively “minor” crisis. The world has never reacted to a “pandemic” as it is reacting these days. Even if worst-case scenarios don’t “materialize,” this shows how quickly an unexpected “disaster” can arise from nowhere and utterly alter the global landscape.

This is a time we need “national days of prayer.” We need to be sincerely looking to God, not just for “comfort, strength, protection, health and healing,” but also for “guidance and, yes, correction.” We need to see this from God’s point of view. We must see how He is involved and what He is trying to teach us.

Yet the notion of God being involved in something like a disease pandemic is entirely foreign to people. Think about this for a moment. Suppose God did want to “correct” us.

Suppose He does hate sin and hates how it harms us.
Suppose He wants us to see how selfish, covetous, materialistic we are.
Suppose He wants us to see how glutted on sports and entertainment we are.
Suppose He does want us to change, to turn from sin, to turn to Him, and to live better lives.
Suppose He wants to show us that modern conveniences and luxuries are dominating our lives and drawing us away from Him.
Suppose He wants to help us see how we trust ourselves too much and to realize how fragile the civilization we have built really is, how tenuous the social fabric.
Suppose He wants us to get a good look at our own selfish human nature and to help us see that we aren’t as good-hearted as we think.  

Most of us get along well enough as long as we are “materially” well off, but it’s when we experience hardship and deprivation that our “true” character begins to emerge.

What if God wanted to show us how little hardship it takes to begin to expose our ugly tendencies like selfishness, tribalism, factionalism?
What if God wanted to warn us that bigger trials are coming, and to give us a taste of those, a dose of reality, so we could examine ourselves to begin to see who we really are?
What if God wanted us to stop our sports worship, our entertainment addiction, if He wanted us to hit the pause button on all the movies—so we would slow down a moment, stay home with family, think, and consider our ways?
What if God actually did want to correct His children for their sins, and to lead them to repentance?

Isn’t it possible He could use a “disease” pandemic to do it? God makes the answers to all these questions and more plain in His revelation to mankind, in the Bible.

“God’s Word tells us why events like this are happening. It explains in detail why God allows trials like this one, at times on a mass scale, to accomplish specific purposes. It also tells us what God expects of us. What God’s standards are and how to recognize when we are astray. It explains how to see the evil in our own hearts and to combat it.” 

The Bible is full of examples of God “correcting” people through trial. There are many biblical examples of God specifically using “health trials and diseases” to correct people. So the Bible is an invaluable “resource” to guide us through an event like this. It can tell us what to “expect” and how to successfully “navigate” these choppy waters.

First let’s see why God is “allowing” mankind to go through this ordeal.

God has a magnificent “purpose” for mankind. But that purpose requires that we have “free choice;” God will not “force” us to go His way. At the beginning of the book, in Genesis 3 NIV, our first parents, Adam and Eve, were given that choice. God spelled it out for them and let them choose between the “tree of life” and the “tree of death.” They chose death.

The rest of that chapter shows that because of their “decision,” God pronounced certain “curses” on them. He “banished” them from the Garden of Eden and “cut off” their access to the “tree of life.”

Their decision cut “mankind” off from God, His truth, His knowledge and His guidance. Ever since, man has been building civilizations apart from Him, trying to figure out how to make things work on our own. This is why the world is so rife with misery “because, with few exceptions, we are not submitting to God.” We are living a way that is leading to our own destruction.

It’s a way God prophesied would actually end with our “annihilating” ourselves from off the planet if He didn’t intervene! Jesus Christ Himself said in Matthew 24:21-22 NIV  this about the time that would occur just before His Second Coming: “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.”

God wants to “restore” to us the awesome human potential that Adam and Eve turned their backs on. He wants to “convert” the heart of every person in the world, to help us see our error in going the wrong way and instill in us a love for His way. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 NIV

Repentance means “comparing” ourselves to God’s “law of love” to see where we are “sinning and are flawed,” and then changing direction and “obeying” His law!

God’s law, for example, commands “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV Repenting of not doing this means striving to change. God’s law forbids putting anything before the true God, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:2-3 NIV

Repentance means searching your life for areas where you are prioritizing other interests, people or things before God. God’s law says in Matthew 5:27-28 NIV you shall not commit adultery. That means turning away from all forms of “sex outside of marriage, same sex marriages, fornication, pornography and all lust and perversion” as God defines it, not as “society” does.

God’s law is perfect and it is liberating. “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it, not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it, they will be blessed in what they do.” James 1:25 NIVIt is a law of love  Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10 NIV. God’s law defines how He thinks, how He lives, and who He is. It is the way that Jesus Christ lived. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” 1 John 5:3 NIV

Our own thinking, reasoning and ways are “fatally” flawed. The unstable, unjust, unhappy world we have built is abundant proof of that. God wants each of us to see reality, “and when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people Israel, being aware of the afflictions of their own hearts, and spreading out their hands toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts, for you alone know every human heart.” 1 Kings 8:38-39 NIV.

He wants us to avoid the “suffering” that comes from each of us relying on ourselves and comparing ourselves to others. He wants us instead to live by His law because that is what is best for each one of us, and for the world we inhabit.

This is a tremendous ambition for God to have, because “each human heart is terribly plagued by weakness and evil.” (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV) God is not yet trying to turn people to repentance on a mass scale, but His master plan does eventually include everyone. God has an amazing future for all those who will be willing to come to repentance.

True “repentance” bridges the gap between an individual and God. Thus, the very first step toward real, lasting happiness is a genuine, deep, complete repentance. Have you ever repented before God? Very few people have. But nobody will ever begin to walk the path toward true happiness and fulfillment before doing so. We must recognize our own helplessness and inadequacy apart from God. That is the most fundamental lesson any of us can learn.

This is what was missing from President Trump’s declaration for a “National Day of Prayer.” As 1 John 3:22 NIV explains, “Whatsoever we ask in prayer, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” Prayer alone isn’t enough. We must also turn to Him in repentance and obedience. In 1 Peter 3:12 NIV it says “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

That is a major reason so many prayers go “unanswered” because people simply have not “surrendered” themselves wholly to God. They are still living in “rebellion” against Him. Once you understand that God is trying to bring us to repentance, then many of the writings in the Bible make sense.

Consider Leviticus 26 NIV and Deuteronomy 28 NIV, known as the “blessings and curses” chapters. They list the “blessings” God will give, even on the national level, to those who obey Him and the “curses” that will come to those who do not. These chapters are specifically directed at the Israelites and their descendants, which today applies to all of us individually.

God gets very specific in verse 22 discussing disease: “The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish.”

To have God, who has total power, “cursing” you is terrifying! Few take this warning seriously, but this is just one of many biblical passages showing how God “corrects” His children when we go astray. He is like any father who loves his children: “He will step in when he sees them hurting themselves.”

Throughout Deuteronomy 28 NIV, God repeatedly says how these “curses” are aimed at turning us back to Him! If we would turn, and as soon as we turn, the curses would stop! Only because we “refuse” to repent will they grow worse and worse.

Amid this current crisis, how many people are “seeking” God? How many are “examining” themselves according to God’s Word? How many are concerned about the “sins” of our peoples that are bringing these curses upon us? Instead we see people hoarding, fighting over goods in stores, panic selling, and looking for entertainments to lose themselves in.

“With great swathes of the world population physically distancing themselves from the rest of society, travel restricted, and schools and workplaces shutting down, we can expect a massive increase in ‘screen time,’” the Telegraph reported. “Last week, Telecom Italia reported a 70 percent increase in Internet traffic, much of it due to online games such as Fortnite. The coming age of self-isolation means experiencing live events, social interactions and learning through a device. Parts of life that were once analogue will now become temporarily, or perhaps permanently, digital.”

So many of the things “society” loves are actually idols: “sports, concerts, bars, comforts and luxuries, money and materialism, our work, our investment portfolios.” Not that any of those things is “evil” of itself, but many people put those things “ahead” of God, which is a form of “idolatry.” Now, suddenly, many of these “gods” are being forcibly stripped from us.

Perhaps you are among the many people who cannot go to work. You have extra time on your hands. Use this opportunity to direct your attention to the more important things in life that are too often neglected amid the hurly-burly of everyday responsibilities and distractions.

God wants us all to see the error of our ways and turn our hearts to Him! He wants mankind to recognize just how failed and flawed the civilization we have built apart from Him is. He can use a crisis like this to try to drive people in that direction. But if people don’t respond, what more can a loving God do?

If you look from God’s perspective at the way people are reacting, you can see why these problems are virtually certain to intensify. God wants to bring about repentance—so He can make the magnificent future He has for mankind possible. Thus, He is going to allow this world to endure even greater suffering.

The Bible includes some “grim” prophecies about disease pandemics in the end time. Even secular news sources have been quoting some of them.

In Matthew 24 NIV  Jesus was forecasting the conditions that would precede His Second Coming. He said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (verses 6-8).

Perhaps the most vivid forecast on this point is in Revelation, the Bible’s most detailed book of end-time prophecy. Here is where you find the imagery of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The third of these is described in Revelation 6:8 NIV: “I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.”

Among the weapons this horseman has, there are “disease” epidemics. Along with these other three horsemen, this anemic-looking horseman on a haunting, pallid horse will slay “the fourth part of the earth.” With today’s population of 7.7 billion, that means nearly 2 billion people!

Coronavirus is definitely a problem, but compared to the scale of the “pestilence” that is coming, it is barely significant. God prophesies of tens of millions of people killed by pestilence!

But do not lose sight of the reason. God is not destroying indiscriminately: “He is correcting the world in love and in measure to help mankind ultimately turn from the paths of destruction to the way of truth and peace!” God will allow viruses and other afflictions to affect mankind to precisely the degree needed to help people repent, no more, no less.

For most people, this will come when God resurrects them again to life in a world that He governs. God is revealing His “end-time warning” message to this world through this work, literally fulfilling His prophecy in Isaiah 58:1 NIV “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.”

But if God cannot bring us to “repentance” through words, then He will try to do so through “trials, afflictions and disasters.” When trouble comes, some will finally cry out to God for His intervention in their lives. But physically, they may be too late. We must “seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6 NIV).

Must you “suffer” alongside this world? No. The same God who controls world events is perfectly capable of “protecting” individuals. Act while the warning is still going out, not only after “calamity” grows worse. Heed God’s words and turn to God now, and you will receive relief from His curses. He promises to forgive and then to protect each person who repents. Why wait until the Great Tribulation, “the worst suffering mankind will ever experienced” to respond?

God wants us to change our behavior so we obey Him and seek His will, not ours. The Bible is filled with examples of individual repentance and individual protection. If we repent, God can protect us just as surely as He protected Daniel from the jaws of the lions. Not one hair was singed when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were cast into the fiery furnace. Other ancient prophets survived multiple disasters and intense persecution. God’s true Church received divine protection throughout the centuries when His people remained faithful to Him. God can bless us and be a shield in our individual lives just as He was for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and so many others.

The Apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 2:9 NIV that “if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.” This lesson permeates the Bible: “God protects righteous, obedient people who seek His protection.” 

God has power over diseases. It says in Exodus 15:26 NIV “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”

God promises in Psalm 103:2-3 NIV to heal us upon repentance: “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” This does not mean you will never get sick. In fact, God’s promise of healing wouldn’t apply to someone who never came down with a sickness or disease. Some of God’s people may even get a virus. God may allow that as a test of our faith.

But we need not “panic” during times like these. The world is panicking and fearful. People are so terrified of “death” that panic is drawing them into ugly “behavior” and unnecessarily costly “policy” decisions. But those who put their “trust” in God are at peace. They are full of “faith, hope and comfort.” God promises these things.

He also absolutely promises healing. Yet sometimes God allows His people to get sick, even to die in faith, not yet having received the promise of healing in this lifetime as mentioned in Hebrews 11:35-39 NIV: “Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated, the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.”

Healing is a sure promise, and many who claim that “promise” are healed, even immediately! But for some, it will take place in the “resurrection.” God does not promise that you will never “die” in this physical life. Actually, God promises that you will experience “trials!” But with Christ in you, you’ll be able to “battle” those with faith. That makes all the difference whether you “live or die.” God’s faithful people are not “afraid of death.”

God guarantees “peace of mind” during the worst of crises. He is in control, and He promises in Romans 8:28 NIV “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We may experience some of the same “troubles” that descend on the world. Yet we have a solid “hope” in the future God has promised in Hebrews 6:19 NIV  “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain” to keep us stable even in times of trouble.

Are you ready for “crises” to come? Start preparing by “repenting” before God. That is what God seeks above all. And to those who turn to Him with supple hearts, He offers individual protection and escape from the worst of the coming storms. Luke 21:36 NIV says “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

That is the only sure place to invest your “faith.”

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