Theology Matters: The Fruits of Good Theology, Part 4
Over the course of the last four articles, we have examined why good theology matters. Good theology matters because it provides a true knowledge and understanding of God, his creation, and his plans for us. Good theology matters because it allows us to apply Scripture to all areas of our lives. Good theology matters because it provides certainty, grounding, and hope in our uncertain times. Good theology matters because it produces several spiritual fruits in the lives of genuine believers.
Based on Moses’ encounter with God in Exodus 34:5–9, we have discovered four spiritual fruits produced by good theology. First, we learned that good theology always leads us to Scripture. Second, we brought to light that good theology should lead us to humility. Third, we recognized that good theology not only leads us to worship but teaches us how to worship. Fourth, we saw that good theology leads us to dependence and trust in God as evidenced by prayer. In this final article, we will see the fifth spiritual fruit of good theology; that is, good theology leads us to repentance.
Good theology leads us to repentance.
God revealed all his goodness and proclaimed his covenantal name to Moses on Mount Sinai. Moses humbled himself and worshiped the Lord in response. Moses then offered a prayer of dependence and trust in God. In his prayer, Moses responded to the revelation of God’s mercy, grace, longsuffering, and justice by acknowledging the need for repentance: “And pardon our iniquity and our sin” (Exodus 34:9). As God’s appointed leader over Israel, Moses repented not only for his own personal sin but also for the sin of the people.
Repentance is defined in Scripture as turning away from sin and turning toward God in love and obedience (Acts 26:20). As such, calls to repentance are found throughout the Old and New Testaments. Noah’s message from the steps going up to the ark was not, “Something good is going to happen to you!” Amos was not confronted by the high priest of Israel for proclaiming, “Confession is possession!” Jeremiah was not put into the pit for preaching, “I’m O.K., you’re O.K.!” John the Baptist was not forced to preach in the wilderness and eventually beheaded because he preached, “Smile, God loves you!” The two prophets of the tribulation will not be killed for preaching, “God is in his heaven and all is right with the world!” Instead, what was the message of all these men of God?
Biblical repentance requires we acknowledge our sin.
Good theology teaches us that biblical repentance comes only after we recognize God’s holy standards and acknowledge our inability and failure to keep them in thought, word, and deed. In fact, one of the purposes of God’s Law is to define sin and thereby to expose our sinfulness (Romans 3:20; 4:15; 5:20a; 7:7; Galatians 3:19).
Besides acknowledging our sinfulness, we must also admit that every sin we commit is a sin committed against God. For example, when the prophet Nathan confronted David for committing adultery with Bathsheba and killing her husband, David admitted, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). David also reflects on his sin with Bathsheba in Psalm 51:4 by confessing to God, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” When the lost son finally comes to himself in Jesus’ parable (Luke 15:11–32), he goes back to his father and acknowledges, “I have sinned against heaven and before you” (Luke 15:21). Finally, Paul admonishes the proud Corinthian believers in 1 Corinthians 8 that when they blatantly and unlovingly exercise their Christian liberty they not only sin against their brothers but they also sin against Christ (1 Corinthians 8:9–13). Consequently, biblical repentance requires that we come face to face with the entire reality and scope of our sin.
Biblical repentance requires a change of heart.
Good theology also instructs us that biblical repentance is more than just feelings of regret or a fear of consequences. Biblical repentance requires a change of heart, or a change in our thinking, emotions, and will regarding our sin (Acts 3:19; 26:20). Biblical repentance begins when we change our view of sin to align with how God views sin. Instead of coddling, justifying, or downplaying our sin, we begin to understand how much it defiles us. Because we understand how our sin defiles us, we also change our feelings and attitudes regarding sin. We begin to hate our sin and develop what the Bible describes as “godly sorrow” when we do sin (2 Corinthians 7:9, 10).
With our thinking and emotions about sin aligned with Scripture, we next choose to turn away from our sin and to avoid the situations that tempt us to sin. As Proverbs 7 teaches, we not only avoid the adulteress but we also avoid the street where she lives. These inner changes of heart regarding sin—changes in our thinking, emotions, and will—will lead to outer changes of life. In other words, biblical repentance will lead to genuine life change.
Biblical repentance requires confession of sin.
Finally, good theology leads us to the realization that biblical repentance requires more than offering an apology or saying, “I’m sorry.” Biblical repentance requires confession of our sin (Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9). Confession involves personal recognition of guilt and liability and formal admission of this to God and to others whom we have wronged. This type of confession to God is modelled for us in Psalm 51, Ezra 9, Nehemiah 9, and Daniel 9. Interpersonal confession is modelled for us by the lost son when he confesses his sin against his father (Luke 15:21). When biblical repentance is accompanied with confession, this leads next to asking forgiveness from God and others whom we have sinned against.
Please recognize that offering an apology or saying, “I’m sorry” when you sin is not the same as biblical repentance, confession, and asking for forgiveness. An apology is an inadequate, humanistic substitute for the real thing. Nowhere do the Scriptures require, encourage, or allow apologizing. As Jay Adams has written, “To say ‘I’m sorry’ is a human dodge for doing what God has commanded.” Therefore, good theology leads to biblical repentance, confession, and asking for forgiveness; it does not lead to offering an apology or saying, “I’m sorry.”
Good theology matters.
Church, good theology matters. As we learned from Moses’ encounter with God, good theology leads us to God’s Word. Good theology humbles us. Good theology guides us in our worship of God. Good theology increases our dependence and trust in God through prayer. And, good theology teaches us the necessity and characteristics of biblical repentance. Everyone is a theologian. However, not everyone believes and practices good theology. Which will you choose?
**The views and opinions expressed by the author may not necessarily reflect the views of the elder board of Grace Bible Church or the official position of Grace Bible Church.