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When Jesus healed the cripple who had been brought to Him by his friends at Capernaum, His hometown, it is written in both versions of Matthew and Mark:  When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven,” which brought out comments from some of the teachers of the law who were thinking to themselves, “Why does this Fellow talk like that?  He’s blaspheming!  Who can forgive sins but God alone?” and said to themselves, “This Fellow is blaspheming!”

Immediately Jesus knew in His spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and He said to them, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?  Why are you thinking these things?  Which is easier:  to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins…”  He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all and went home.  When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe…  This amazed everyone and they praised God, who had given such authority to men, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

This incident occurred after Jesus had changed water to good wine at Cana after He had become known as One who healed the sick, had preached the Gospel and had taught on the mountainside about forgiveness, healed the leprous and the centurion’s servant, calmed a storm and delivered the two demon possessed men at Gerasenes the first time He got there… so it is no accident that this occurred when His reputation as a Healer and Miracle Worker with His disciples and His public had become well known, for even by Matthew 4.24… News about Him spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and He healed them. 

Now as the friends of the paralytic were lowering him before Jesus, Jesus said something that had nothing to do with healing, even though the paralytic and his friends brought him for healing.  They had faith that Jesus would and could heal him and were so sure about this that they made a hole in the roof.  However, what Jesus said was not what one would expect from a healer or miracle worker… “…your sins are forgiven.”  He did not say, “Be healed,” or, “Walk.”  What He said had nothing to do with the man’s condition at all.  Why?  Perhaps because the man needed forgiveness more than healing since he already had faith.  Jesus could have healed him first and then ministered to him and then forgiven him.  However, Jesus, the Healer, the Miracle Worker, put forgiveness of sins ahead of healing when it was painfully obvious that healing was needed first.  Why?  At this place, at this point in time, knowing that the teachers of the law were watching Him, knowing what they were capable of thinking and saying, “Why?” it would have been simpler to heal the man, do what they expect… why so much controversy?

Because the ministry had now grown so popular and its reputation of healing the sick so profound that holes were being made in roofs to get the paralysed to Him, and the real and true purpose of Him being here was being blurred and even lost… people were coming for the miracles, but the purpose of the healing and miracles was being lost.  He had to remind everyone, even the teachers of the law, why He was here – in order to forge and complete the work needed to establish the Covenant for the        Forgiveness of Sins in His blood.  And anyone who forges the covenant certainly has the authority to exercise the covenant.  He had to remind them the first word, the first lesson that John the Baptist prepared them for with his ministry was repentance, so that the forgiveness that is in the covenant may be accessed.  Forgiveness without repentance is useless… like an electrical device all plugged in but not switched on is as useless as repentance without forgiveness. 

The forgiveness that comes from God is not a ‘spiritual’ one only, but the forgiveness of God has its effect on both the spiritual and physical aspects of a person’s life.  God demonstrated this and promised this in the Old Testament when He said to Solomon, “…if My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” so that the Israelites would know if their repentance had been accepted by the healing of their land.  In 2 Chronicles 7.14, God actually defined the requirements of repentance – that His people would humble themselves, pray (that is, talk to Him), seek His face, and turn from their wicked (God forsaking) ways.

Repentance is not saying sorry; that is only apologising.  Repentance demands humility, prayer, relationship and a giving up, a turning away from the ways that forsake God, which is a maintenance of one’s relationship with God afterwards.  As such, repentance is not a single act of contrition, but rather, it is a lifestyle that fills a person.  Hence, it is called the baptism of repentance (an infilling of repentance) for the forgiveness of sins.  An apology does not bring repentance as a baptism brings the forgiveness.  Thus, all members of the elect have been instructed to be in continuous repentance, that is, continuous state of humbleness before Him, a continuous state of conversation, relationship and intimacy with Him that does not forsake Him.  Thus, it is a repentant who, having made the good confession, gets up and walks on with God before God.  It is not like a man who walks into a toilet to dump his rubbish and walks out to go back to what he had been doing.

John the Baptist baptised in the waters of the Jordan so that those who would come to him might experience a foretaste of repentance… that refreshing wetness of the cold waters of the Jordan after a hot and dry walk in the wilderness to be where John was preaching.  And so Peter said it, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that He may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.” 

So Jesus, before the teachers of the law who should be experts in the requirements of repentance, said to the cripple, “…your sins are forgiven,” and as proof of His authority, He healed the man.  That was Jesus’ way of answering the lawyers’ Who can forgive sins but God alone?” to show them… “Yes, God alone can forgive and I can forgive because God and I are One.”  And if the repentance is acceptable, then the forgiveness is confirmed, not with just an invisible exchange in the spiritual to be experienced later in Heaven, but an immediate changing of the physical state of a man’s life and a nation’s land.  Jesus was reminding the teachers of the law that when God forgives He heals the land, when Jesus forgives He heals the man… for Jesus came not for the land of Israel, but for the lost sheep of Israel, not for the pastures, but for the sheep as well.  Just as the waters of the Jordan changed a person’s outward physical state immediately, so the acceptable act of repentance changes a person’s spirit and flesh as well.  And since repentance is a baptism, not a singular immersion or dunking, but rather, it is an abiding… like a man who remains in the Jordan after the immersion, so repentance allows God’s forgiveness to flow in such a way that day by day… there is more healing.  In the same way as rain breaking the drought causes first the grass to grow, then the trees to bud, flower and bear fruit, so the healing of the land is a gradual progressive event that leads to more and more relief.  Likewise a person whose repentance is a baptism and not a singular interjection will experience an unrelenting continuous changing in their lives, going from being refreshed to fruitfulness.  However, there must be a refreshing first, otherwise there is no repentance accepted.  For the repentance comes from us, the acceptance comes from God and He has spelt out that requirement… a repentant needs to be a humble, praying, God seeking man who turns from his God forsaking ways. 

The first requirement is to be humble, which is why the Pharisee who stood up and prayed about [to] himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men…’ went home unjustified before God.  You see, he stood up, whereas a humble man does not stand but bows, and the requirement of prayer in 2 Chronicles 7.14 was that they pray to God… not to themselves or about themselves.  Had he been ill, he would not have been healed, but since he was in good health, his ignorance of his unjustified state is kept hidden from him.  That is why it is good that we are troubled when we have forsaken God… for the refreshing that comes with our acceptable repentance lets us know we are forgiven.  Where there is no repentance there is no forgiveness, where there is no forgiveness there is no refreshing.

Take the case of Peter in Matthew 14 when he walked on the water towards Jesus and fell into the waves… was that a moment of refreshment for Peter or was it a moment of humiliation?  Peter’s cry, “Lord, if it’s You, tell me to come to You on the water,” was that the reply of a humbled disciple who had been exposed for disobeying his Master or that of a man with pride to show off his faith and acceptability by Jesus?  And their arrival at Gennesaret immediately as Jesus stepped in instead of at Capernaum or Bethsaida, was that a vindication of their worship of the Lord as He stepped into the boat or a clear message to them that they had gone to a place no one intended because they had not repented?  You see, in 2 Chronicles 7.14, God did not include worship of Him as a request of repentance.  Their worship of Jesus because they were amazed was inappropriate and the Lord had to take them to where He did not intend them to go and neither did they get to where they wanted to go. 

Lack of acceptable repentance, much less repentance, will prevent disciples from going where God intends for them, and in fact God will have to take them to where He never intended them.  (Jesus wanted them in Bethsaida, but He had to land them at Gennesaret instead.)

The early church in Acts 2.42 devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… and for a while things seemed to be going as planned.  It was like watching them get into the boat, leave the shore and head into the river.  It appears they have heeded the command to go immediately to Bethsaida, but wait, as you watch them… they are setting a course for Capernaum… not Bethsaida.

For a while there… from Acts 1 to 8, it seemed things were going along fine.  They may have lacked the faith to believe in the messages of the women on resurrection morning, but Jesus’ rebuke of them in Mark 16.14 seemed to have worked.  The Holy Spirit had finally come and souls were being saved, healings were happening and they appeared to be doing what Jesus had been doing… but then at Acts 8.1… On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  Wait a moment!  Did not Jesus tell them in Matthew 10.23, “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.  I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes”?  And these were specific instructions to the twelve when Judas Iscariot was still with them.  So did the eleven scatter in Acts 8?  No.  Has anyone noticed that there was one act of the apostles that is missing in the four gospels?  The word ‘repent’ is not associated with any of their actions or speech… certainly not with the Bethsaida, Capernaum, Gennesaret incident and certainly not in association with their stubborn refusal to believe in the messages of the women.  Peter wept bitterly when he did deny Jesus three times as Jesus said he would… but the word ‘repent’ is not there.  Amazingly though, the Aramaic of the Peshitta version has this in Matthew 27.3:  Then Judah the traitor, when he saw that Jesus was convicted, repented, and went away and brought back the same thirty pieces of silver…  The only one of the twelve with whom the word ‘repent’ has any association was Judas.  Why has the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the gospels not to mention the twelve’s repentance after their foray into the lake or the eleven’s repentance after their disbelief of the women’s message and their not going to Galilee that morning?  If they had done it, the Holy Spirit would have written about it… and are we to presume and assume that they did not need to because they were apostles or that they actually did not repent?

If repentance was not part of their regular practice over the times they did not listen to Jesus… then their teachings to the believers in Acts 2.42 would be just as lean on repentance.

Now we know they preached repentance to the unbelievers.  However, there was very little teaching from the eleven about repentance as a baptism for the believers.  Paul again is the only one in his letters who spoke of repentance to his churches, especially the Corinthians.  It is one thing to preach repentance so that the unbelievers would repent to receive the forgiveness to be born again.  It is another to practise repentance as a baptism… as one practises the baptism with the Holy Spirit by asking the Father for more of the Holy Spirit.  A church that not only preaches repentance, but practises repentance as a baptism for the forgiveness of sins does not only dunk new believers in water, but is ever mindful in its speech and actions of the short comings and disobedience before men and before God, in the same way as Paul was not ashamed to write of his shortcomings in Romans 7 to confess his conclusion of himself… What a wretched man I am! and that from the apostle Paul himself.  Everyone who is familiar with Romans 8 will quote, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires,” and forget what any counselor, teacher or helper desires the most.  It is that they be allowed to do their work.  And what is the first work of the Holy Spirit that Jesus said He would do?  “…the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  And what is the first thing Jesus said to us?  “Repent…”  If indeed your mind is set on what the Spirit desires, then you will be set on living repentance as a baptism… a continuous unceasing infilling until you are full of repentance.

Thus, a basic innovation is our approach and understanding of repentance and the baptism of repentance, for even to the Ephesian church that could test apostles and find them false, Jesus commanded them, “Repent and do the things you did at first.”  Perhaps it is the absence of continuous repentance amongst the ‘leaders’ that has given rise to a monstrosity that has historically killed, tortured and pillaged unbelievers and believers alike, all in the Name of Jesus Christ… a monstrosity that is known to the world as the historical denominational church.

Whatever may be the cause, this we know for a historical fact… after a brief summer, the church descended to powerlessness and politics… it persecuted and harassed and then mutated… so that no congregation fits the description of the congregation of Acts 5.

As such, for those of us who seek better things for Jesus, repentance must be seen as a baptism and lived as a baptism – an unceasing infilling where every believer and disciple practises and recognises that we must be in unceasing and continuous repentance, for though we may fulfill a command of Jesus now, we will also fail in the next moment.  A recognition that since we do practise the words of Jesus, then failures and success dogs our every step… and we need then to repent for every failure as much as we enjoy every success.  The obedience to this command of Jesus then… “Repent and do the things you did at first,” must be a continuous unceasing lifestyle, not a singular ceremonial event.  And perhaps if our repentance is acceptable… then the times of refreshing will come as promised, and what Peter said in Acts 3.19-20 would finally happen… and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.

You see, as the fame grew, the busy-ness grew, the crowds grew… the reputation grew.  Jesus drew us back to why He came… to not only preach repentance, for John had done that already, but to reveal to men everywhere the forgiveness of God.  The forgiveness that not only saves the souls of men, but heals their flesh and land and gives them the new birth of the Spirit so that not only are they made whole again, but made new also.  So new that indeed the fullness of God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ brings forth the new creation – not a son of Adam, but a son of God who can grow to the fullness of the stature of Christ by the power of the Spirit of Sonship.

Perhaps we lost sight of that… as the congregations grew the persecutions grew, and the need to maintain some sort of order grew, and so we forgot why Christ was sent… not to raise up the church to rule the world, but to preach repentance and forgiveness in His Name to all creatures, creation and mankind and to make disciples who would show the world just what God means by repentance and what He has provided for men in His forgiveness before man was even formed.

So repent and again I say, repent… until times of refreshing arrive, for that is when you will know your repentance has been acceptable that you may go home justified. 

Amen Holy Spirit.

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