We wish this question were not necessary, but due to the stubborn streak that resides in all our hearts, there are times when we resist repentance. What happens on those occasions?
I would propose there is a progression that emerges until we repent.
- We pridefully chose to believe we know better than God.
- We begin to brainstorm support for this false belief.
- We grow increasingly convinced that God should think/rule as we believe.
- We daydream of a world that follows our beliefs/values.
- We begin to make God in our own image.
There may be other paths from point one to point five, but point five should startle us. Yet, making God in our image has become increasingly fashionable in our day. It is common for people to view God as needy, changing with the times, a risk-taker, playing favorites, moody, or having a “personal arrangement” with them that differs from the Gospel found in the Bible.
Consider one of the basic definitions of repentance – “agreeing with God.” When we do not repent, we necessarily believe God should agree with us or our actions. It only takes a little imagination to begin making God in our own image – and completely reversing the foundational teaching of the relationship between God and man in Genesis 1.
All of this means, that if we are going to be biblical Christians (and that is the only kind of Christians there are) we must be regularly repentant. If not, we are either attacking or distorting the very character of God.
More than this we will teach (or try to teach) others (especially our spouse, children, and close friends) to believe the same distorted beliefs about God. Unless we repent, we will either teach (passively) or argue (aggressively) that our beliefs are accurate. They will be forced to agree with us, confront us, or live with an irreconcilable tension. This is particularly hard for children, teens, and those young in their faith.
This brings us to a profound summary point—the failure to repent is to believe and proclaim heresy. If you defensively think, “I’m a Christian and I know it. You can’t judge me,” then you are still too self-centered and completely missing the point. Repentance is worship and evangelism. It proclaims God as more wise, just, and worthy than our beliefs and actions. It also proclaims God’s willingness to restore those who acknowledge his right character.
When we fail to repent, we miss an opportunity to reveal the majesty of God’s character and redemption to ourselves and those around us. We may do some bad things when we fail to repent (and experience the hardening heart consequences), but more than that, we miss the opportunity to participate in the greatest thing—God’s love and redemption.