Written by Toby Baxley
Many people have either a legalistic or licentious relationship to God.
The legalist believes that he must give God a good performance to be accepted.
The licentious is glad that God loves to forgive, because he loves sinning.
The truth however is not somewhere in-between. One does not counter legalism by sprinkling in some lawlessness. Conversely, licentiousness is not remedied by a good dose of law-keeping.
When the prophet Isaiah saw the Lord as recorded in Isaiah 6, he was confronted with the holiness of God and with his own sinfulness. This is a quite common pattern in Scripture. Another example is the calling of the Apostle Peter. If you recall from Luke 5, Peter and his companions had been fishing all night without success. Jesus climbed aboard Peter’s boat and instructed him to let down his nets in deep water. They then hauled in such a catch that the nets began to break. Peter knew he was in the presence of holiness and fell at Jesus’s feet crying,
Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!
What is the answer? What is a right relationship with God?
Faith and repentance. Drawing near to God on His own terms.
The most well-known verse on drawing near is from James 4:
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8a)
If you continue reading, you’ll see that this verse is set against a backdrop of repentance:
Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:8b-10)
According to this passage, to draw near is to mourn, to weep, and to be miserable over your filthy hands and defiled hearts. There is the solid hope, however, that if you humble yourself in the presence of the Lord, he will exalt you (lift up your head).
Repentance in faith is the means by which we draw near to God. As Pastor Chris said, “Faith and repentance are two wings of the bird that carry us to heaven.”
How do you know you’ve truly repented?
At the risk of sounding trite, the way you know that you’ve truly repented is that you keep repenting. A true believer will repent a thousand times in a thousand ways. He or she will keep coming back to God over and over again. Repentance is not a one-and-done event. While there is a one-time repentance at conversion, there is an ongoing repentance that results from, and results in, growing as children of light.
The legalist is crushed by sin and runs away and tries to hide in order to keep up appearances.
The antinomian believes that it’s all under grace and doesn’t know what all the fuss is about.
The gospel-loving Christian is, by grace, confronted by his or her sin, grieved by it, and runs to the Father in repentance and faith, trusting afresh in the finished work of Christ and believing the promise of 1 John 1:9.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
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