In 2 Corinthians 7:11, Paul tells the church of Corinth what repentance looks like. True repentance is evidenced by:
vindication (some versions say, ‘clearing of ourselves’)
indignation (we begin to hate the sin; it becomes disgusting to us)
fear of the Lord (reverence to the point of trembling before Him)
longing (intense desire)
zeal (we pursue, embrace, and defend Him with enthusiasm)
avenging of wrong (we move from tolerating our own sin to punishing it; we force sin to depart from us by submitting to God)
When we begin demonstrating these attitudes, we show ourselves to be innocent in the matter–true repentance (repentance means ‘a change of mind’) has taken place.
Remember when God the Father instructs Moses about how the Jewish people should sacrifice to the Lord? Exodus 29:10-30, amongst other places, shows that there was to be a “sin offering”, “burnt offering”, “wave offering”, and “heave offering” (other passages even include “guilt offering”).
Let’s not cut repentance short by stopping after ‘sin offering’; let’s continue to offer a fragrant aroma of prayer to the Lord and to continue fighting against our flesh until everything in competition with the Lord is purged from us.
It’s not enough for us to JUST confess our sins and receive forgiveness–this is a good start, but Christianity is more about seeing and knowing Jesus than simply being forgiven. That is, a Christian can be forgiven and ‘saved’, and yet not be walking in the freedom Christ intended. The freedom occurs when we let godly sorrow move us to full submission and a renewed mind. As we experience this full repentence, we also begin to experience the Lord Himself because the cloudiness of sin clears itself from us enough that we can begin to see our Lord.
This is a short segment of an email I wrote today responding to a discussion based on an article about hearing from the Lord (the author of the article argues that dreams and visions have no place among today’s Christians and therefore, come from a demonic or natural source when experienced):
In the Old Testament, God’s relationship with the people was corporate—if the husband of the family was saved, the rest of the family would also be saved and so on. It was because of the people’s sin that they could not interact personally with the Father, and, in fact, the Glory of the Lord acts so powerfully against sin that they could not safely approach the places where the Lord would choose to rest His presence (the Mountain, the Holy of Holies, etc).
The Holy Spirit was not fully available, so God would pick only one or a couple of the most righteous people to send the Holy Spirit to, that they would be able to speak to His people. Notice that in Numbers 11, Moses wanted the burden of prophet/judge to be split among other men because it was so much for him to bear, so God led him to appoint seven elders to share leadership. And God does something surprising: He says, “I will take of the Spirit that is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it alone.” The Holy Spirit wasn’t fully available yet—and couldn’t be under the Mosaic Covenant—so God the Father split the portion He gave to Moses so that they each had a piece of the responsibility (for that instance; after they had prophesied once, they never did again: Num 11:25).
Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection was the sealing factor in a new covenant—the Messianic Covenant—and as a result, He promised that the Holy Spirit would now be available to every believer. Not only that, but because God could now communicate with each individual person, people would be judged individually for their sins. We’re now entirely responsible for our own relationship to the Lord; and Jesus promises that His sheep will hear His voice (John 10) and that the Holy Spirit would be with us to lead us into all Truth (John 14 and John 16), but we do have to diligently ask to receive the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13)—not just one time, but consistently so that we can truly walk in the Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit became fully available at Pentecost, but we can only receive as much as we can handle and as much as we want, and since we are continuously sanctified and growing in faith, we need to continue to ask for Him so that the world doesn’t seep into us instead.
Also, God does speak to us through the Bible, and we should always compare everything to it. However, it’s important to realize that when Hebrews 1:2 says God speaks to us through His SON, it means exactly that—Jesus is Living and He speaks. He speaks to us through the scriptures (which are the inspired Word of God through the Holy Spirit), but He also speaks to us through prayer, dreams, visions, the gift of tongues with interpretation, and even through other people as they are led by the Holy Spirit. I agree that we should test every spirit to see if it is of God—the devil is speaking too, and since he doesn’t have the power to create as God does, he uses the gifts that God has already set up for his purposes. Many people think they’re hearing from Jesus through dreams, visions, pastors, prayer, tongues and a variety of other sources when they’re really hearing from deceptive spirits or false prophets! That’s why it’s so important to stay in the Bible (John 8:31-32) and to spend lots of time practicing hearing the Lord’s voice. We can’t assume that all of the God-given gifts are bad, but we do have to be very aware so that we can discern whether the voice being heard is from God or the devil.