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Repentance and God?

When Israel entered the east side of the Jordan River, King Balak solicited a prophet of God, Balaam, to curse them. In response to this request, God told Balaam to speak these words, “God is not a man, that he should lie, Neither the son of man, that he should repent: Hath he said, and will he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and will he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19). God had already promised to bless Israel, and God does not go back on His promises as do men. We conclude there is a fundamental difference between God and man. God’s nature is constant, enduring, and true. Man’s nature is fickle, mutable, and changing.

The fact of man’s mutable nature can be both good and bad. It is bad because man is born into the world morally pure, and any change away from that state corrupts man and brings him into sin, a state in which he is separated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). It is good because man need not remain in such a state. He may change his life by repenting of his sin and living for God. God, however, is not like this; God does not change moral states, and this is good. Only an immutable God can provide the foundation for truth whereby man can know what actions are always morally right and wrong.

This means any change that needs to occur must be changed on man’s side of the equation. The changes are written in the pages of God’s Holy Word. Songwriter Michael W Smith expressed these sentiments when he wrote, “Ancient words ever true, / Changing me and changing you. / We have come with open hearts. / Oh let the ancient words impart.” It is not God who must change; it is us, and we must permit His word to change our lives by observing His word faithfully (Deuteronomy 6:3). This is what repentance truly means; repentance is not momentary regret (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Repentance is a change of mind that effects an ongoing transformation of life (Romans 12:2). It is a life-long process of learning our sins and weaknesses, putting them to death, and allowing God and His word only to guide us along the way (Romans 8:13, Colossians 3:5, 16).

For an individual who has lived a life of sin, repentance is that point at which he initially turns from His sins and makes a commitment to following Christ. This issue of the Christian Worker will look at various aspects of repentance as it relates to eternal salvation. Second Peter 3:9 declares that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God’s immutable nature enables us to transform our lives to His purposes. This is the change that we need to effect in our lives. In relationship to a loving and immutable God, may we ever seek to practice repentance.