But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.(Matthew 21:28-32)
Notice that Jesus calls us all to think, as his introduction to this parable about repentance. This is because repentance, faith and salvation come to us ,only as a consequence of being made to think. As we stated in part 1 of this subject, ‘repentance’ is ‘metanoia’ , a change of mind, about God, His Word, ourselves, salvation, judgment, and eternity.
The very word ‘repent’ is a compound word. ‘re’ means ‘again’, and ‘pent’ means ‘to think’, thus, to repent means to think again.What we are calling upon men and women to do in our preaching and evangelism is to go back and think again about the most important and eternal things of life.
Everyone who has ever lived has worked out within themselves some kind of a ‘plan of salvation’, ie thoughts of the afterlife and eternal destiny. It is part of being human to have some thought about what happens after you die. God has put eternity in our hearts, as Ecclesiastes says. The problem is that most of those thoughts are wrong.
The Atheist tells himself that when he dies, it’s over, his body decomposes and the atoms and molecules go into the ground. He has it worked out, he need not worry about the afterlife, that is his ‘plan of salvation’!
The Hindu believes in ‘re-incarnation’, if he doesn’t get it right in this life, he has thousands of other opportunities to live a human life, and then to become ‘nothing’, Nirvana! The Muslim hopes that his capricious God will see his observance and take him into heaven.He isn’t quite sure of he will, but at least he isn’t an idolater, or a misguided christian, or heaven forbid, a Jew, all of which are certain to be thrown into hell.
The nominal Christian has it worked out, that his baptism, or the fact that he has heard that God is love, or perhaps(Like I once hoped) that his good deeds would outweigh his bad, and that on the judgment day the scales will tip in his favor.
My point is that it is only human to wonder about death, the afterlife, and to want to resolve these wonderings to satisfaction, and then go on with our own life.
But in all of the cases above, unless these individuals are challenged and compelled to go back and to ‘think again’ about God, salvation, works, judgment etc, none of the above will ever be saved! Jesus said “…unless you repent, (Think again), you will perish”.
The young man in the parable told his father “No,I won’t go out in the fields for you Father”, But as he went on his way,he allowed himself to think again. He changed his mind and did what his father wanted. This is Jesus’ teaching on repentance.
The other brother lied to his father, (and no doubt to himself), and never gave it another thought! Just telling his father,”Yes, I will do it”, made him feel good, even ‘righteous’ compared to his rebellious brother. But feeling righteous is no substitute for truly being Right with God. He needed to ‘think again’ also, but failed to do so.
The moral of the story?
John the Baptist tried to get the people of Israel to re-think their stance before God. But because they were circumcised, and descendants of Abraham, according to the flesh, they took (false) comfort, not realizing that John was right, and that judgment was looming over their heads. The axe was literally at the root of the tree of Israel… .
But they were fine, they didn’t need to reconsider themselves, they had it all worked out in their thoughts. Jesus ran into the same hardness and warned them (and us) of it, citing the prophet Isaiah,
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.(Matthew 13:13-15)
They see…but they don’t see, they hear…but they don’t hear, they nderstand…but not really. This is the condition of the unrepentant, they already think they know, no-one can get them to ‘think again’, that is to repent. The constant refusal to reconsider, has a hardening and deadening effect on the soul, eventually.
Listen to the prophetic anguish! “If only they really would be willing to see, and to hear, and truly allow themselves to receive ‘understanding’, they would then be converted , and I (the LORD) would heal them”.
The gospel came to me with power, and shook me to the very core of my being . It changed me, it upended my all of notions about God, and about Jesus, Mary, Heaven,Hell Purgatory, the church, the basis for judgment, good works, and eternity. I thought I already knew about all of that, but as I read the Word of God, I was forced to rethink, ie repent.But had I refused to allow myself to so much as rethink, I surely would have perished in my sins and been damned forever!
I so thank God for getting my attention, and turning me aside (like Moses’ burning bush) and causing me to have to think again. What will happen to this younger generation, for whom through I-Pads, Walkmans, and I pods, they can program all of their thinking in advance, put the buds in their ears, and tune every other thought out but the ones already programmed? God help us! Grant repentance to this generation!