It is obvious that we are to repent, meaning, turn from our sins, and as it is written, it is then that times of refreshing may come. This is speaking of the weight taken off of us when we let go of all our sins, both seen and unseen, and we let God start being God in our lives. How does this work in our lives? Let’s look at what we were taught about forgiveness.
Luke 17:3 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
When a fellow believer (brother) sins, we are supposed to correct, or rebuke, the person, but if they repent, we are called to forgive them, just as the Father forgives us, which means without grudge or account. Jesus told us He was only saying and doing what He saw the Father say and do… and I think this is valuable insight to how forgiveness works with God.
We can profess His name, study the Bible, do the greatest of deeds in the estimation of men, but if we haven’t repented that which we do in sin, we are doing what we do under our own power, not His. Much like the Jews who were using His name in exorcisms, if we are just ‘in name’, we are nothing at all.
Acts 19:13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 14 Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Likewise, if a brother sins and doesn’t repent, we are essentially forced into a deadlock as we have to continue to follow what we were taught…
Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
To treat one as a tax collector back in His day is basically to avoid the person as tax collectors were hated. They would not only collect what was due, but would often pad their own pockets with the money and property of the people. Of course, we can’t look at that without remembering Matthew was a tax collector called to follow Jesus, and was surely embraced as he repented and humbled himself to the will of the Father by following the Son. HUmbled and forgiven while following Christ.
So we see three steps of rebuking and asking the brother to repent until the person is basically let go of. At that point, it becomes a matter of that sinning brother humbling up to God which will lead to repentance. More or less, its like letting someone try to do it their way until such time as they are humbled and broken in their efforts realizing they can do nothing apart from the Lord.
I believe we were taught these things because this is how God deals with us. If we are playing games, He will allow us to get our butts kicked like the Seven Sons of Sceva… the name of the Son of God may carry power, but its not going to help very much if its not backed with faith. If we harbor unrepented sin, He will take His hand from us until such time as we find the need to turn to Him again, and then, just as we are always to forgive a repenting brother, He is faithful to