What a Christian is: Part 5
Imagine not eating for the next three days––no food at all. How would you feel on the morning of the fourth day? Awful. By the fourth morning, your hunger would have grown to the point of pain. It would have started small, but as the hours passed your body would begin to scream at you and to ache with hunger pangs to remind you that unless you eat, you are going to die.
That is the image Jesus chose to describe the final step of repenting.
Repentance is a word some have not fully understood. We tend to think that apologizing is the same thing. But, Jesus won’t allow us to think that… not if we listen to his own description about what responding to him should look like. The very next thing he says in Matthew’s Gospel after inviting repentance (4:17) is a series of descriptions of those who have entered his kingdom. The first four of these “Beatitudes” are a roadmap of repentance.
We have already seen that repentance begins with seeing ourselves as we truly are (Matt 5:3). Next, that pitiful realization will lead us to sorrow over what we are, what we’ve done, what we’ve thought (Matt 5:4). That sorrow leads us to humble our wills and submit to God’s (Matt 5:5). Each of those, we should notice, is a negative thing. They are seeing, sorrowing and submitting of what we are. But, the final step, which we see in Matt 5:6, is positive. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Jesus says that the process of repentance should make us feel hungry. We should feel aches and pains like we haven’t eaten in days. The travail of seeing, sorrowing, and submitting should lead us to believe that there is something that our lives depend upon. But, instead of a meal that will keep our physical bodies alive for another day, it’s a longing for that spiritual emptiness to be replaced with fullness. Like a starving man begging for food, this crowning step of repentance recognizes that unless Jesus fills us, we cannot live.
But, the promise for every hungry and sorrowful soul is that Jesus will satisfy. He will fill. He will make every repentant heart righteous and renewed. But, that is NOT his promise to the person who has quickly and cheaply apologized for some sin or failure. Apologizing is not the same thing as repenting. This assurance of pardon and righteousness? This is for people who have seen Jesus and the truth of his gospel.
The evidence is in your response.
If you have, then you will have seen your sin, sorrowed over it, submitted yourself to God’s will for your life, and you will be seeking his righteousness as the thing you need most. You will know that without his righteousness, there is no life.