What Draws People to Repentance?

Here’s a question for you: Is there a main motivating factor that brings people to turn to Jesus for salvation and eternal life? According to the Bible the answer is “yes”, but it might not be the yes that you think it is.

For centuries, many churches and even entire denominations have used guilt and shame as a motivator to point people to Jesus. Then, once those people become part of the church, guilt and shame has been a favored tool to keep them in line. If more “motivation” is needed, just throw in the continual fear of going to hell and, well, now you’ve got a great way to persuade a lost and dying world to accept Jesus, right?

Wrong.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells a well-known parable about a man who has two adult sons. The youngest son asked his father to give him his inheritance early. Surprisingly, the father granted his request and the son headed to the big city with enough cash to last a lifetime. Before long he was dead-broke, having spent all his money on a sinful lifestyle of drunkenness and prostitutes. He found himself working for a pig farmer and eating pig feed just to survive. The Bible says it was then that he “came to his senses” and realized that his father was a very kind man. So kind, in fact, that maybe he would take his errant son back into his care.

As the son traveled back to his father’s house, he rehearsed his repentant speech and fully expected to have to grovel at his father’s feet. But it didn’t happen that way. As soon as the father saw the son approaching, he ran to lovingly embrace him and welcome him back into his family as a fully-restored son.

Here’s the key to this teaching from Jesus:

It wasn’t guilt, shame, or fear that brought the son back to the father; it was the father’s kindness.

The Bible tells us in Romans 2:4 that it’s the kindness of God that brings people to repentance and a right relationship with Him.

The teachings of Jesus bear witness to the Father’s extravagant love and acceptance for you. If you view God as a heavy-handed taskmaster who’s ready to smite you every time you mess up, then you’ve got an unbiblical view of Him. That could also be a reason why you struggle to enter into a close relationship with God as your Father. The truth is that God is yearning for you to turn away from the junk of this world that steals your dignity, and turn to Him to experience His lavish love for you.

So as Christians, let’s make sure that we give others an accurate picture of God as a loving Father who’s excited for people to come home to Him, no matter what they’ve done.

How To Quit Living For The Line

Imagine if you were seeking marriage advice and an “expert” told you to find the bare minimum that would be required on your part to keep your spouse from divorcing you. Some sort of imaginary line that if you performed above that line, your spouse would stay with you. However, if you perform below that line your marriage is over. So, if you have time, just try to live up to the bare minimum and you’ll have a great marriage.

Horrible advice, right? No one in their right mind would think that just living up to the “bare minimum” in a marriage would be a good idea. And yet, many people live their lives as Christians with that same mindset. Not as it pertains to their marriage, but rather how they view their spiritual life. Instead of investing in a personal relationship with Jesus and living all-out for Him, they tend to focus more on “the line” between going to heaven or going to hell. They think more about what the bare minimum requirement is for going to heaven when they die than who it is that they’ll actually spend eternity with.

But is there actually a “line” that determines whether we go to heaven or hell? I And if so, where is that line?

According to the Bible there is a line, but it’s not what many people think it is. Over the years I’ve asked many people who identify themselves as Christian if they think they’re going to heaven, and most of them have answered affirmatively. When I then ask them why they think that, the vast majority say something to the affect of trying to be a good person and trying to go to church when they can. Although these are two very good practices, they do not get you across that “line”. What gets you across that line is committing your trust to Jesus and receiving Him as Lord and Savior. But that line is not the finish line, it’s actually the starting line.

Unfortunately, many Christians view the moment of salvation as the culmination of their efforts – whether for themselves or on behalf of someone else. But as Christians, we’re to live from the line, not to the line. Salvation through Jesus is meant to be the start of our new and fulfilling life in the Kingdom of God here on earth. We should be focusing on living our new life for Christ instead of half-heartedly trying to live up to the “bare minimum line” of good deeds and church attendance. Our goal is not to get saved, our goal is to live saved.

So how do we get past living for the line and starting living for Jesus?

1. Know that your purpose is to glorify God.

If you were to ask people what their purpose in life is, most of them would struggle to come up with a clear and concise answer. Many men might say their purpose in life is to provide for their family. Many women might say their purpose in life is to be a good mother to their children. While these are very noble answers, according to the Bible they’re not our purpose. They are responsibilities given to us by God. God has given us many important responsibilities in this life, but we are not to confuse them with our purpose in life. God’s Word clearly tells us that our purpose is to glorify God. As followers of Jesus we all have the same purpose, but we have many different responsibilities.

If we know that our purpose is to glorify God and point our life in that direction we’ll be less inclined to wander aimlessly in life, hoping that we’re living up to the line.

2. Yield to the Holy Spirit.

It is impossible to glorify God and live for Jesus without the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. Jesus told us that every New Covenant believer has the Holy Spirit living within them. We can either ignore the Holy Spirit and live like any other human, or we can listen to and follow Him. When we yield to the Holy Spirit, God works in us and through us to pour out his supernatural power. God’s mighty power working through us brings glory to God in very noticeable ways.

When we listen to the Holy Spirit and follow His leading, the Bible says our lives will be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When people around you see these characteristics in your life they’ll know it’s not just you. In our own strength we don’t have what it takes to live a life like this. It takes the supernatural presence of a living God for us to live like this. When people see these things in your life, God will be glorified and people will be motivated to cross the line of salvation and live for Jesus.

3. Go!

If you’re going to live from the line instead of to the line, you’re going to need to start engaging the people around you with the life-changing power of Jesus. One of the key words in Jesus’ Great Commission is the word go. You’ll have to step outside of your comfort zone when the Holy Spirit begins to lead you outside the walls of your home and your church. And when you go you need to be loaded with the power of God through the Holy Spirit. Words are important, but a demonstration of God’s supernatural power is what will get people’s attention.

Today is the day to quit getting tripped up on the line of salvation and start actually living for Jesus instead of living for the line. Live with you purpose in mind. Listen to and follow the Holy Spirit. Are you ready? Go!