The Discomforting Comfort of Turning to God

Hebrews 12:14-17

14Pursue peace with all [people], and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

15See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;

16that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.

17For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.

Hindrances to True Repentance
Jacob and Esau were the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah (see Genesis 25:19-34), as well as grandsons of Abraham and Sarah. Esau sold his birthright to his younger brother Jacob for a meal. (The birthright meant eventual headship of the family and a double share of the inheritance.) He also sought for repentance with tears but he could not (allow himself?) get there and was rejected by God. Why? I believe that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews displays deep prophetic insight into Esau’s psyche and identifies specific hindrances to Esau’s repentance. Repentance, is sometimes a last ditch effort to comply with our perception of God’s standards in order to avoid God’s wrath and punishment. However, the above description would more accurately characterize relentance and not repentance. In reality, repentance is one of the grand privileges of the Christian faith. So what is true biblical repentance?

Repentance Defined: not only a turning away from sin, but also a turning to God
In his book The Wounded Heart, Dan Allender records some penetrating yet refreshing definitions: “Repentance is an about-face movement from denial and rebellion to truth and surrender…repentance involves the response of humble hunger, bold movement, and wild celebration when faced with the reality of our fallen state and the grace of God…It is a shift in perspective as to where life is found…It is melting into the warm arms of God, received when it would be so understandable to be spurned.”

These are recorded for us as six specific admonitions:
1. Pursue peace with all people (v.14) – [To run swiftly in order to catch] [Peace — the harmonized relationships between God and humankind, the sense of rest and contentment. The corresponding Heb. word shalom primarily signifies “wholeness:”] Roms 12:18 – If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all [people].

2. Pursue sanctification (v.14) – [Sanctification is to set apart our heart’s and life for God’s purpose.] Esau was rejected by God because he steadfastly refused to serve the purpose of God and instead served his lust for the immediate and the tangible.

3. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God (v.15) – [Exercising oversight] [The merciful kindness by which God; exerting holy influence upon souls; turns them to Christ; keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection; and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues] We are to deposit the grace of God into everybody’s account! Titus 2:11,12 asserts, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all [people], instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.”

4. See to it that no root of bitterness springs up – causing trouble and defiling many (v.15) – [Metaphor for extreme wickedness] [To dye with another color, to stain; to defile, pollute, sully, contaminate, soil] Deuteronomy 29:18-20 defines a root of bitterness as, “walk(ing) in the stubbornness of my heart.” Unforgiveness and unresolved hurt &/or anger combine to create a deadly poison. We must take the time to resolve our misunderstandings and differences. (Matthew 18:15-17 identifies the biblical pattern for conflict resolution)

5. Immorality (v.16) — Proverbs 5:9 tells us that in immorality, “you give your vigor to others and your years to the cruel one” (Satan). Hardly worth it for a few moments of sensual gratification.

6. Godlessness (v.16) — Most followers of Christ think they are immune to this admonition, yet we need to ask ourselves this question: Do I invite the wisdom and counsel of God to accompany me as I move throughout my days? Proverbs 3:6 (TLB) tells us, “In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.”

Esau found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. I want my heart to remain soft and pliable before the Lord through humility, honesty, and integrity – quick to identify, confess, and forsake my sins. I want to live my life in grateful surrender to the plans and purposes that God has ordained for my life. I want to experience the blessings of being in right relationship with the King of kings and the Lord of lords through the privilege of repentance! This concept has come to be know as “walking in brokenness and vulnerability.” It is the counterintuitive way of the Christ-follower – and the unlikely route to joy (a chapter title in Allender’s book).

Romans 2:4 – the kindness of God leads us to repentance

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