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Commanded to Repent

Acts 17:29-31
'Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.' (NIVUK)

Two great questions underlie all philosophy and religion: they were often debated at the Areopagus in Athens, the court of ideas and religion. The questions are 'Who am I and why am I here?’, and 'Who is God and what does He want of me?' Paul answered both as he addressed the top religious philosophers in the world of his day.

Athens specialised in inert idols to be worshipped (Acts 17:16). But the true God cannot be a humanly shaped lump of stone or casting of precious metal, because He made the craftsmen who made the idol (Psalm 115:3-8). No: God is a living personality who is far superior to us, and we are His offspring, having some of His characteristics, however much they have been spoiled. Like a son in a family business, we should represent our Father and work in His kingdom with Him.

To worship anything which is not the true living God is highly offensive to Him. Before Jesus came, God was longsuffering with rebellious humanity, but now Jesus has provided a way to be forgiven; God commands everybody to repent. This is not an option but a command, which will be backed up when Jesus returns as the Judge of all humanity. We know that He has the authority to judge, because God raised Him to life after being killed by those who rejected Him.

So to answer the questions: I am made in the image of God to represent Him, working with Him and for Him in this world. God is the creator of everything and is in no way shaped by me; but because I am prone to worship idols (anything that occupies my time, thinking and resources more than the true God) God commands me to repent, now. If I do not, then He has the last word as my judge. Repentance is the normal, essential response to realising my moral failure before a holy God. The closer I am to Him, the more I see the contrast between my sinfulness and His purity; and the more I see the need to repent. That is not a morbid introspection, but reality through which God wants to pour His forgiveness as I repent.

Forgiving Father. Thank You for not holding any of our sins against us when we repent because Jesus has already been punished instead of us. Forgive me for my idolatry; please deliver me from the habits which offend You and frustrate Your purpose for me in this world. Please teach me to welcome Your command to repent, and may I have the joy of forgiveness and the ability to be productive again in Your service. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams