Repentance For Life

by John Hotchkiss on May 12, 2020
My name is John Hotchkiss. I am an IT analyst for Cape Cod Healthcare and live in North Falmouth. I am also Chairman of the Elder Board at Christ Chapel and a long-time elder there.  I am moved to share this information for a couple of reasons. First, I believe that I have spent much of my life misunderstanding the nature of repentance and underestimating its importance. Second, I believe that God is telling me, and perhaps telling us, the church, that it is time to stop playing at church, to stop demanding our own way, and to stop presuming that we are right. The time is late.

Repentance for Life

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent,' he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Martin Luther, 1517.

Calls for repentance are nothing new. God has been calling people to repent since Cain reacted poorly upon the rejection of his grain offering by God. We know about corporate repentance. God repeatedly called Israel to repent. He called the church of Christ to repent, and calls it to repent still. We know about personal repentance. John the Baptist and Jesus himself each began a public ministry by calling listeners to repent. We repent and believe in Jesus and receive acceptance by God with all that it means. But repentance is not a one and done deal. Far from it. I know. I have tried that route. Here are a few issues that I have experienced throughout the years, and this is how it all played out for me.

Receiving Christ, my deliverance from terminal directionlessness

During my teen years, I abandoned God, either as fictitious, uninterested, or incapable.  I thought no one cared about me, and I resolved to care about no one but me. I wandered through the supposed logic of Darwinism and believed that upon my death, I, as a soulless mistake, would revert to dust. In college, I bounced from one belief system to another, including communism, Hinduism, and a bunch of other things. One day, as I sat alone in the student center with no friends at all, a woman with a child asked if they could sit at the table (I said fine, the table was empty), and the mother proceeded to explain Jesus to me, and her story made some sense. Not a lot, but I was desperate for something, anything, and Jesus sounded better than what I had known before. I prayed and became a Christian. This was good. I thought I had done all I would ever need to do and went out feeling better. I lived a better life, but God was far from done with me. He then proceeded to lead me, though I did not know it.

Believing God's promise, my deliverance from terminal meaninglessness

Eventually it became apparent that I was not leading the life that I should. I still carried bad habits and exhibited a pomposity that wreaked havoc in my life and relationships. By God’s grace, working through those who loved me, I became aware that I was living out a series of lies that I had believed since childhood. Lies such as, “No one cares about you”, “No one loves you”, “No one appreciates what a great guy you really are”, and so on. There were more than a few lies. Way more. Because I believed these lies and lived accordingly, I carried within me a belief that it really does not matter what I say or do, it is all meaningless in the end. Not exactly Godly thoughts. Deeper than directionlessness, meaninglessness ruled my life because I believed lies from childhood. Yet God used a loving spouse to help me to see and repent of these lies. Now I was good to go.

Fighting back, my deliverance from terminal weakness

Eventually I became a leader and teacher in my local church. But as challenges arose in my personal life, at work, and at church, I proved unable to handle them. I always shrank back, zoned out, stuck my head in the sand, hid behind a rock, ran for safety, or surrendered on the spot. None of these stratagems worked at all, not once, and, my life and the lives of those I lived and worked with were negatively affected. But by God’s grace and with help from a Godly person, I came to see, with great difficulty, that I was a plain old coward at heart. Again, with much resistance and difficulty, I prayed prayers of repentance. By definition, passivity is a tough foe to defeat (in my strength). But I am in Christ! Now I had arrived!

Full surrender, my deliverance from terminal heartlessness
Finally it became apparent that a very big problem remained, perhaps the biggest problem. I cared more for myself than for anyone else, whether God or neighbor. This deadly attitude lay deeper than all the previous issues, beneath the foundations of my beliefs, at the root of who I was. This sin has been hardest to grasp, and it came to light for real in 2020. Yes, I have been a Christian since 1972, and yet this fundamental sin was living in me, quietly destroying one thing after another. By grace, I have repented of this horrendous sin, which had stood in the way of my fully accepting the Lord’s will, loving God, loving my neighbor, loving the least of these. I surrender! God cares for me! Shall I not care for all of his creation? Shall I not serve Him? Yes!

Are these the only times of repentance in my life? Not by a long shot. Do these and other  issues still crop up like weeds from time to time? You bet they do, more than I would like. But now you have the idea. True repentance is a daily matter, a critical matter, because sin is a fact with which we all have to deal in this life. Then what can we do about it? How can we stay on top of it, as it were?

First, seek to get and stay humble. If you are wondering if you are humble at any particular time, then it is safe to assume that you are not. Humility is not something that comes naturally, and, in fact, is something that none of us can do on our own. How best to stay humble? One of the best ways is to develop a practice of daily self-examination. Morning and evening, do a spiritual self check. Here are a couple of pertinent articles to help you do this.

And now, pray the Scriptures, which include both numerous passages on the need for repentance and many prayers of repentance. I encourage you with all my heart to repent daily. We owe our very existence to our crucified and risen Lord. How can we not come before him humbly and ask his forgiveness and his aid? There really is no other way. The Christian life is a life of repentance. Put your hand to the plough. Take up your cross. Do not hesitate and do not look back. You are being sanctified daily, you are being being transformed into the same image [of Jesus Christ] from glory to glory!

Trust God. Trust Christ. Trust the Holy Spirit. You are his beloved!

John Hotchkiss
Chairman of the Elder Board
Christ Chapel