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14 August 2010 (Shibi'i/Sukkot)
Day #152, 5934 AM
Teshuvah #6 No Regrets
The Biblical Way to Repent

    "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death" (2 Cor.7:10, NIV).

Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisa'el as we continue seeking for emet! or truth during this the Teshuvah or Repentance season. There are many people who alas believe that repentance is firstly recognising that you have done something wrong, and secondly, making yourself feel as bad about what you have done wrong as you possibly can. If you have been taught that this is repentance, you have been taught false, non-biblical doctrine of many counts. This does not mean one should not feel sorrowful during repentance - that will come automatically if you have done wrong, know it, and are open to admitting you are wrong. But the repentance that Yahweh wants, as our scripture this mornings clearly states, is the authentic type, and the authentidc type of repentance "leaves no regret".

Let's begin today with the simple ABC of teshuvah. Most will tell you that what teshuvah means is to 'change ones mind' or to 'change direction', and they would be correct. Repentance is indeed changing direction, and changing your thoughts and feelings about something. It means to have a completely different view of something that involves your thoughts, feelings and bodily reactions. However, these behaviour changes can only really come about genuinely if your 'essential being' or spirit has itself been changed, and as we will see in a moment this can only be accomplished supernaturally. We can force our thoughts to be one way, we can force our feelings to be one way, and we can force ourselves to do a certain thing but not another. But so long as the impulse is force, implied is that there is a regret at our change in direction - some part of us would rather not repent or change direction. And when we behave in this manner, without having a supernatural change in the core of our selves, then all that happens is that we split our mind into two parts and initiate a civil war.

Don't misunderstand me - and this I have preached hundreds of times - it is better to force yourself not to commit adultery or not to do violence against someone than to be 'honest' about your true feelings of lust or hate and go and wreck someone else's marriage or put them in hospital, possibly even killing them. That is common sense. Forcing yourself to repent is definitely better than not repenting at all but this is not a final solution. This formula of 'forced repentance' is applied by men and women of all kinds of religion and indeed no religion at all. If they are successful in maintaining their 'repentance', they ascribe it to their 'god' or to their 'will' whilst all the time wrestling with the contrary side which regrets the change of direction. This contrary side has many names but to keep things simple at this stage I will simply say that the 'contrary side' is basically your unsaved core - the essential self that does not know the true Messiah, Yah'shua, and who in all likelihood does not want to know Him because that self enjoys sinning.

This brings me to another word in the language of repentance - sin. Those who don't want to believe in God don't, of course, accept that sin exists. The word ' sin' literally means 'missing the mark' or 'missing the target'. Using a secular illustration, if I am doing some target practice with a rifle and I miss what it is I am shooting at, I have 'sinned'. A Christian or Messianic has as his or her target to be in right relationship with Yahweh-Elohim.

When we are not facing Him and not moving toward Him, we are 'missing the target', like a rocket veering off course and instead of heading home to earth, we head off to Pluto. That's pretty bad news for the astronaut in such a situation because he's no longer going home. Indeed, he will disappear into deep space and die of starvation, asphixiation or cold. A chef putting icing on a cake who forgets his glasses and ends up icing the kitchen table instead of the cake has also 'missed the mark' or 'sinned'.

Sinning in the Christian sense is believing and/or doing something that causes us to veer off the target of a proper relationship with God and ending up nowhere. It is easy to say 'keep your eyes on Christ' but not so easy to do in practice. I am sure everyone here knows about infra-red sensors that come with modern weapons which enable even unskilled soldiers and policemen to hit their mark. They point their rifle in the direction of their intended target and when a red spot caused by the infra-red beam strikes the target, making it visible to the human eye, the person holing the gun squeezes the trigger and hits his mark.

Yahweh also provides us with a spiritual equivalent of an infra-red beam so that we can find our way back to Him. You see, returning home to Yahweh and keeping your eyes on Him is not a physical act in physicsl space. It's a spiritual orientation. And just as we must train the use of our physical eyes in marksmanship, so our spiritual eyes must be trained in a similar way, only its more than spiritual 'sight' that's involved here - it's our whole inner being and our physical responses.

One minister describes repentance as what you get when you try to fit everything together that the Bible says about growing in our relationship with God. And he emphasises the word 'everything'. But what is this 'everything'? That's a pretty big word - a daunting word for someone who wants a simple definition of repentance. So I am going to try and simplify it for you.

We all agree, I hope, that sinning is 'missing the mark' or 'missing the target'. In order to do that, you also have to 'miss the WAY' - you have to get lost! When you 'miss the way' you're off the track, path, road or way that leads to Yahweh. If you are heading for a star in a space ship and look outside into deep space, you will see millions of stars, and unless you have a brain like a mainframe computer, you're not going to know which star to head for. You may have a 'general sense' but to be off target by as much as a fraction of one degree could mean that you end up millions of miles from where you want to be because of the great distances involved. Life is a long distance too. Most of us can't see more than a few minutes or hours ahead, let alone days, weeks, months or years. The future is all unknown to us.

When I look back to the time I was 16 and was trying to imagine my future - and if I compare that with where I am now, I have to truthfully say that I got 99% of what I guessed completely wrong. The only Being in this Universe who knew where I would be 40 years on was Yahweh, my Heavenly Father. He knew! Lots of other people thought they knew but they were totally wrong. Nobody knows the future but Yahweh, not even His prophets who, though they may be given glimpses of this or that event, are as much in the dark as we are and have to live by the same kind of faith and trusting as we do. Which brings me to another point - no matter what mark, goal or target you set for yourself, whether it be God or self-fulfilment, you need to have faith. Yes, even an atheist needs faith. And he will discover, just like your religious person, that he hasn't much of a clue about the future. And the reason we know is not because of religion or a lack of religion but simply because we are human and finite.

So there you are looking for a star. Even if by some piece of brilliant calculating you did find the right star, you could easily lose it because you're in constant motion yourself. Things are constantly changing around us. Yes, the sun still rises every day, and the moon traverses the night sky in a predictable away, but people and circumstances are constantly changing. Nothing in this world is static. That makes a lot of people uneasy and even unhappy because above all what we are people look for is stability and constancy. We want to know that some things never change. Can you imagine all the psychological disorders there would be in the world if our orbit around the sun was not constant, or if the earth revolved around its axis in an irregular way, perhaps randomly shifting its axis? We'd never know when the next day would start, or whether tomorrow would be winter or summer. We would go insane. So Yahweh, in His loving kindness, at least made these constant:

    "And Elohim said, 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the shamayim (heavens) to divide the day from night; and let them be for signs, and for moadim (appointments), and for days, and for years" (Gen.1:14, RSTNE).

Right from the word 'go' Yahweh ordered the cosmos as viewed from earth. He gave us sun, moon and stars to be signs (for example, for navigation) and for moedim - that is, the times He wants us to assemble on sabbaths, New Moons, the seven annual festivals and other times He has commanded us to set apart for Him. This was one of the first ways He taught man to keep on target - to keep Him in sight - and that was by stopping what we normally do at other times and coming together at these times to worship Him, learmn about Him, and listen to Him. These appointments have never changed. When people have stopped doing this, they have usually got lost. One of the first things we need to do when we decide to repent of our lostness is to observe these times. If we do, He promises to bless us and lead us further. These are spiritual activitiies which we are to do in physical time. They are the basic minimum. In truth, He wants to meet with us 24/7, but this is where He wants us to start so that there is order and discipline in our lives.

Now it's true the heavens have changed a little over time. Various disasters in history have caused the earth to wobble, the polar locations have changed, and even the moon's orbit has changed. Originally it went around the earth once in exactly 30 days. Today the length of the syndoic month is shorter, some 29.53 days. As a result there are lots of different calendars which have been invented to accomodate this shorter lunar orbital time. That's a complicated subject which I don't want to go into today. Suffice to say that the moon, which shines by means of reflected light, is a picture of us as humans who must live by the light of Yahweh who is pictured by the sun. We tend to always be a 'little bit off' even if we do have a precise orbit in life when we are living for Him.

So how are we going to find and follow our distant star? I want you to imagine that that star sends out an infra-red beam like your modern army rifle. It's always pointing at you so that somewhere on your body there is a little red dot. That is exactly what Yahweh does to every man, woman and child. He sends a beam of light - a spiritual navigating light - which is always pointing at us. What we have to do - and that's our responsibility - is to make sure we are facing that light so that that light is in our eye. Then all we have to do is move toward it. THIS IS REPENTANCE, and it involves two actions which we alone can perform:

  • 1. We have to turn to face the light - that means changing direction in life; and
  • 2. We have to move towards the light - that means building the Kingdom.

If you can understand these two actions, then you have understood what the Gospel of Yah'shua the Messiah is, and the part that repentance plays in it.

If a ship is lost at sea and is in danger of sinking, what does it do? It sends out a 'Mayday Signal' on the radio. 'Mayday! Mayday!' the radio operator will cry out. And if he is using Morse Code, he will repeatedly send out the distress signal, 'S.O.S' which means, Save Our Souls! Whether as someone who is unsaved and lost in life, or someone who has been saved before but has subsequently got lost again because of rebellion and sin, Yahweh has provided a distress signal for us that we can send out in prayer that is sincere and genuine, and He will hear us:

    "But when [Peter] saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, 'Master, save me!' And immediately Yah'shua (Jesus) stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'" (Matt.14:30-31, NKJV).

This was Peter being rescued physically from drowning by Yah'shua. King David had many occasions to seek rescue. He cried out:

    "Help me, O Yahweh my Elohim (God)! Oh, save me according to Your mercy" (Ps.109:26, NKJV).

    "I am Yours, save me; for I have sought Your precepts" (Ps.119:94, NKJV).

    "I cry out to You; Save me, and I will keep Your testimonies. I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help; I hope in Your word" (Ps.119:146-147, NKJV).

When we are facing the wrong way, our eyes on the target which is Yahweh, we are commanded to call upon Him. Then what?

    "He who believes (in Yah'shua as Saviour) and is baptised will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16, NKJV).

We will not be delivered from our lost state until we have called upon the Name of Yah'shua the Messiah, trusting in Him continuously, and have been baptised by immersion.

    "I (Yah'shua) am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture" (John 10:9, NKJV).

Yah'shua is the Way back to our Heavenly Father. He is that spiritual infra-red beam that connects us to Him.

    "Believe on (trust in, cling to, adhere to) the Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Lord Jesus Christ), and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31, NKJV).

This is stage #1 of genuine teshuvah - calling upon Yahweh with all your heart, mind and spirit and clinging onto Yah'shua. When we do that, we reconnect. We're pointing in the right way! We see inside and we know to whom we belong and where we must go. Thereafter the rest of our journey is traveling home, a journey that terminates at the end of our physical life.

Just as Yahweh knows it is impossible for us to find His direction without more than a spiritual set of geographical coordinates, so He knows we will not move home unless we have a safe course. What we don't want to do is head back in a zig-zag fashiom constantly getting lost and constantly having to find Him again. So He has designed this Journey home by constructing the Way in a very precise manner. This design has been in existence from the very beginning. The road is a very narrow one and it is as straight as a ruler. There are no turns in it, or valleys and mountains, that one might lose sight of Yahweh at the end of it for it is so designed that He is constantly visible. It is straight, narrow and flat. And on either side of this narrow road is a hedge or wall. In order to get lost you have to climb over this hedge or wall and when you do He is no longer in sight. That hedge or wall is the commandments or mitzvot. They are the way we are commanded to live, our lifestyle or life's tavnith or pattern. There is only one lifestyle, not many. So you can open any part of the Bible, and especually the first Five Books of the Tanakh or Old Testament known as as the Pentateuch or Torah and there you will find everything laid out for you, with special qualifiers and added detail in the B'rit Chadashah Scriptures or New Testament.

And now a word of clarification. The road down which mankind is called to travel looked a little different before Yah'shua was sent to the earth. The direction was the same, the road was narrow, straight and flat as it is today, and the hedge or wall was the same. It differed from today only by the fact that every few yards was a bonfire (like lampposts) tended to by men especially chosen to keep them burning to keep the way lit. Along the way there were multiple stops in which special offerings had to be made by the priests on behalf of the trevellers to keep the fires lit and the way visible. When Yah'shua came to the earth and died for our sins, these lights were extinguished and the priests who tended them were released from their duties because now the road itself lit up. These priests were the Aaronic Priests of the Old or Preparatory Covenant. Today we have no need of that lighting system because Yah'shua is Himself the Way, the Truth and the Light (Jn.14:6). We cling to Him now instead of making animal sacrifices along the way, because He was our final sacrifice for sin.

The hedge or wall that lines either side of the Way is the Torah - the orginal commandments of Yahweh. These consist of His moral law as well as rules for the lifestyle of His people generally. We are still called Israel as they were anciently only now we are Messianic or New Covenant Israel. All the laws, minus the animal sacrifices), are still exactly the same because Yahweh has not changed. All that has changed is the lighting system, from a temporary one to a permanent one.

A key component of this walk along the Way is 'faith', or to use a better word, 'trusting'. Without it, there is no way we will stay safely on the way until we are home at the end of life. This is not a broad way (Mt.7:13) like the way that leads to destruction, a way without the protection of Yahweh's Laws or the Light of Yah'shua's Salvation. Many Christians try to walk the road without these walls or hedges of protection and wonder why they mess up their lives; and yet others wonder why the wall or hedge isn't enough without Christ, and what they end up trying to do is walk along the wall and end up falling off and getting lost. And though Satan's way is broad he also includes the odd hedge or wall he has invented himself to give the illusion of security and safety.

Let me give you two illustrations. One of Satan's walls or hedges, which Satanist Aleister Crowley invented, was 'Do what you will, but don't hurt anybody'. In other words, you decide what hurts and doesn't hurt anyone (see, Might You Be a Satanist Without Knowing It?). Crowley hurt a lot of people, was a pervert and likely a murderer too. His rules, likes those of man-made religions and irreligious systems, end up hurting people, not just during mortality but in eternity too.

Let's randomly dip into the Pentateuch and see what some of these hedges of safety are. There are literally hundreds of them but they were all given by Yahweh and they are all for our safety and happiness. Let us go to the 30th chapter of Numbers:

    "Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, 'This is the thing which Yahweh has commanded: If a man vows a vow to Yahweh, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth" (Num.30:1-2, NKJV).

How many people do you know today who keep their word? We are required by Yahweh to mean what we say, and say what we mean, or don't say anything at all. Our word has to be reliable. This is what makes upright men. This means we must be very circumspect or careful in everything that we say. Our words are important. If we don't want to commit to something we might later regret, we must not commit. But once we do, we must keep our word. Yahweh does not deal kindly with vow-breakers. If we have broken a vow, then we need to make teshuvah and either adhere to our word or aske to be released from it. If the person we have not made a vow do refuses to release us, then we must continue to abide by it. A vow can only be made null-and-void if we make one which is anti-Torah. Thus if I say, 'I vow to rob this bank tomorrow', that vow is null-and-void. But if I say, 'I promise to meet you in the Post Office at 9 a.m. tomorrow' then you need to keep your word, or ask to be released if you cannot.

The rest of Deuteronomy 30 is unknown territory for most Christians and Messianics because it does not fit in with the expectations of the worldly culture around us. Nevertheless it's Yahweh's Law and it must be obeyed if we are to stay on the Way and not get lost - and remember, this rule is for the protection of those it was designed for:

    "Or if a woman vows a vow to Yahweh, and binds herself by some agreement while in her father's house in her youth, and her father hears her vow and the agreement by which she has bound herself, and her father holds his peace, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement with which she has bound herself shall stand. But if her father overrules her on the day that he hears, then none of her vows nor her agreements by which she has bound herself shall stand; and Yahweh will release her, because her father overruled her" (Num.30:3-5, NKJV).

Notice that this rule does not apply to the boys because boys and girls are to be taught to have different but complimentary rôles in life. This law does not just apply to girls young unmarried women:

    "But if indeed she takes a husband, while bound by her vows or by a rash utterance from her lips by which she bound herself, and her husband hears it, and makes no response to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her agreements by which she bound herself shall stand. But if her husband overrules her on the day that he hears it, he shall make void her vow which she vowed and what she uttered with her lips, by which she bound herself, and Yahweh will release her" (Num.30:6-8, NKJV).

This authority, given to fathers and husbands, is for the protection of daughters and wives. No such escape exists for sons or husbands, requiring them to be extra careful. Notice that it is Yahweh who does the releasing from unwise vows because He has given ownership of daughters and wives to fathers and husbands, respectively. That ownership comes with conditions, and those conditions are that the father and husband rule within the parameters of Torah and never outside it. These laws recognise that there are different positionings and responsibilities for men and women, and they have not, as lawless Christians maintain, been abolished. Those who step outside these rules take grave risks.

    "These are the statutes which Yahweh commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, and between a father and his daughter in her youth in her father's house" (Num.30:16, NKJV).

Repentance is changing direction until you are facing Yahweh, it is clinging to the salvation Yah'shua, and it is obeying the commandments. This requires constant training - constant training of your mind in the Scriptures, constant training of your heart by your Scripturally-trained mind. Why does the heart need to be so trained? Because it is the heart that does the turning around. It is the heart that causes us to walk forwards. The heart is the source of our will-power. Repentance then becomes the practice of making continual improvements. Your mind must be constantly redirecting your heart to make the right movements. Repentance is about daily carrying your cross (Mt.16:24) and daily dying to self-rule. Repentance is about coming more and more alive to Yahweh as a result of more trusting in Yah'shua and more obedience to the commandments in Torah. True repentance always leads to more abiding in Christ and less abiding in self. If it isn't doing that, then your repentance isn't exactly biblical repentance but something else. It's no use changing direction for the sake of changing direction; changing direction is utterly useless unless its goal is abiding in Messiah and obeying the commandments. Repentance is not to improve yourself by making yourself feel 'bad' because of what you have done wrong. There are lots of people who feel bad because of what they have done wrong but they have not repented. Why haven't they repented? Because they keep on doing the wrong things they did before. And why do they do that? Because their sorrow was not because they regretted what they had done wrong. Their sorrow was over being caught or having their plans spoiled or because they lost something thay wanted unrighteously. It's easy to fool yourself. Temporarily changing to make it look as though you have repented is not repentance - it's cheating. And Yahweh is not fooled.

People love to put on a show in order to be accepted by others, and they do it in the religious sphere in order to be accepted by the church, assembly and family. Showmanship is self-deception and self-robbery. Paul said:

    "These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh" (Col.2:23, NKJV).

Condemning yourself may feel religious but you will never spiritually grow that way. You may feel 'humble' because of your sorrow but unless it actually causes you to change direction - and that does require some will-power - you will gain nothing of any value other than the contempt of those who discern you are faking it. You will remain spiritually stunted. Making yourself feel bad for what you do wrong is "self-imposed religion" because the pain we feel seems to justify our wrong doing. That's like stealing something, beating yourself with a stick, feeling pain, and then stealing again. That is not repentance. Repentance is when you stop stealing! Then you have genuinely changed the direction of your life and your goal is no longer ill-gotten gains but pleasing Yahweh.

Having 'repentant feelings' do not constitute repentance. Changing direction does. If you knew that someone in your family was robbing you, which would you consider reformation of character? That they give themselves electric-shocks and some pain in punishing themselves to continue stealing again, or simply quit stealing? Would you prefer the cessation of stealing or the fact they are inflicting pain on themselves?

You see, condemning ourselves after we have done something wrong gives us a false sense of being 'good' again. But that is not how you make the changeover from bad to good. Self-condemnation keeps us bent on earning a sense of right-standing before Yahweh and prevents us from putting our faith in the suffering of Yah'shua and the pain that He felt on our behalf. Self-condemnation gives us a false sense of goodness before Yahweh, "for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that Elohim (God) desires" (James 1:20, NIV).

What's going on here? When you try to improve yourself by condemning yourself it's just a way of hiding from Yahweh. It does not cause us to draw near to Him. True repentance does. Motivating improvement by condemnation closes you inside. This is what the Pharisees and religious leaders if Yah'shua's day did (Mt.23:13; 2 Cor.3:17). When you try to motivate repentance and change in others by condemning them you are shutting both yourself, and those whom you condemn who believe you, off from Yahweh. You deny them the freedom necessary for experiencing closeness to Him.

True witnesses of repentance have as their desire to cause people to grow, not to condemn them and leave them feeling cut off and shrivveled up. That is the law of the works of the flesh, and it is death. Repentance, if it does not lead to simcha or joy, is not true repentance. It's another kind of repentance, one that hits a mark but not the mark that is Yahweh.

For genuine repentance to both win and become a joyous lifestyle, we need to firmly and even ruthlessly direct our hearts away from self-condemnation. If any condemnation is to be done, let the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) do it because the Ruach will do it in a way that will always lead to simcha or joy and not to a sense of feeling drained, useless and hopeless. Repentance must therefore include training your heart to stop trusting self-inflicted guilt and to instead start trusting Yah'shua's payment for sin.

If repentance leads you to turn Yahweh off for a while, then you know your repentance was false. If repentance leads you to draw near to Him, and to stop trusting Yahweh to forgive you because you made yourself feel bad for long enough, but instead leads you to trust the forgiveness of Yahweh because of the power of the Cross and the cleansing of the Ruach haQodesh, and without any regrets at leaving sin behind, then you have genuinely repented!


[1] Barry Hall, Be Sure You Change How You have Been Trying to Change

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