Why personal repentance works: and cookie cutter salvation doesn’t

December 7, 2011 — Leave a comment

John preached repentance. He baptized people into repentance.

That was the message he preached every day for quite some time. I don’t know if he changed his title or just went with it: I do know it was life changing.

No person received better treatment than the next. Each was challenged to change their lives and become disciples.

There are no identical root systems

Across the board the message everybody heard was repentance. However, this didn’t look the same in every situation.

Luke 3:10-14,19 – And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. 12 Then came also Publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? 13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. 14 and the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely: and be content with your wages. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done.

Salvation for me will look different than salvation for you. Each of the groups that came to John received different answers regarding the necessary changes that needed to occur.

There were no blanket statements. The cookie cutter is missing from the scriptures altogether. The common denominator was repentance. That is really the only thing that was consistent. The changes made were varied and indigenous.

Most churches are a conglomerate of many different cultures and backgrounds. Each person has a personal story that is unique. Their transformation is a testament to the saving power of God.

Their story can be used to inspire you to experience change in your own life. You need your own story though.

There is no set of changes that can be hammered in stone for all people. Salvation can be: but not the story of your salvation.

Rules and Roots

Rules on the wall are a great way to make people feel safe and religious. But it falls short of being the bible way of salvation.

Meaning, what I needed to change isn’t necessarily what you needed to change. My issues were my issues.

To say repentance simply means not sleeping with your brother’s wife, while helping Herod, it doesn’t root out the Publican that is stealing money.

Likewise the soldier that needs to quit falsely accusing isn’t in the same situation as the individual that needs to share.

Repentance is life change. Your life and mine aren’t identical.

So you must ask, “What’s repentance look like for me?”

Don’t take the form of the model saint in the church and cast yourself into it. You won’t fit. Plus you’ll never really have to deal with the root of your own sin.

That’s where form casting gets people into trouble. We are all chopping at different roots. To describe to your church in great detail what the root looks like for your assembly is to allow people the opportunity of never chopping at their own roots.

The standards for our church are_________ fill in the blank. The problem is you allowed Jim and Pam to bypass their real issues and take on yours. Their sin is never dealt with and well hidden. All sin doesn’t show up outwardly. Actually Proverbs 6 names 7 things that God hates, and they are mostly inward issues.


You and God must deal with your personal root system. These are the sins that are well hidden and established. Honesty and the Holy Spirit must work in tandem during this lifetime process. Lay your heart open before God and find out what needs to change in your life.

It’s impossible to have standards that will keep up with the deep sins in our world. If people never learn to emerge as disciples of Jesus, then policing your people will require a staff of hundreds. Right when you get a handle on things the new way will come out. The lines will become gray again and the police force will have to grow. Still, there won’t be enough policy to keep your people on track.

As long as Jim is following the rules, he doesn’t feel the need to repent daily. Remember, this is a lifelong process. We are emerging and becoming. To become like Jesus takes a lifetime.

There is a better way.

Repentance 101

  • Personalize your repentance. When God convicts you about sin – change. Some things He warns you about may not appear to be sin, but they are gateway actions that lead to sin. You and God aren’t in a democracy, this is a Theocracy. His way trumps my personal view.
  • Read the bible like you look in the mirror. Allow the reflection you see to constantly be in the process of becoming more like that book.
  • Be honest with yourself and God. He knows, but do you know? That’s the key. You must recognize the sin He is patiently trying to reveal to you.
  • Pray and confess. You need God to reveal and you can’t conceal.
  • Connect with a confidential, accountability partner. Be honest with them and allow them to speak to your blind spots.

Salvation stories are all awesome.

They are personal. That’s what makes them powerful.