Wouldn’t it be fun to repent because of pleasure? Doesn’t that sound attractive? A wonderful motivation?
It certainly was a strange and amazing thought to me when I read John Piper’s idea of that in his book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. (Even though I am not a pastor and his book was written to pastors, I have been deeply impacted by his book.) He bases it upon Luke 5:1-10. Simon Peter and his fishing friends have been fishing all night and caught nothing. Nothing! That seems strange and amazing to begin with. From the setting, it seems that this is the first time Simon and his friends have encountered Jesus although in verse 5, Simon calls him, “Master.” But Jesus has been preaching nearby so Simon has most likely heard him spseak personally. And in verse 10, Jesus tells them they will become fishers of men. So at this point, these men are not disciples.
They are still fishermen but fishermen with no caught fish. Jesus tells them, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon replies, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but at Your bidding I will let down the nets.”
Then comes the surprise: a full net so heavy the nets begin to break. And here’s the repentance part: Simon exclaims after falling at Jesus’ feet, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
Pastor Piper writes, “What is remarkable here is that a miracle of grace, not a word of judgment, broke Peter’s heart and brought him to contrite repentance…Genuine evangelical contrition–as opposed to legalistic, fearful sadness simply owing to threats–is a sorrow for not having holiness…The only true sorrow for not having holiness comes from a love for holiness, not just from a fear of the consequences of not having it. Or a more precise way to say it is this: true remorse over not having holiness is remorse over not enjoying God and living by the impulses of that joy.”
He also writes, “To weep at not having holiness, you must long for holiness as a precious experience and reflection of God. To weep over not possessing it, it must be attractive to you for what it really is.”
Isn’t that encouraging and amazing? It would seem to mean that you and I will be more willing to forsake our selfishness for holiness if we see the benefits of holiness. Let’s see…which are really more attractive and beneficial: worry, a closed heart, discontent, frustration, impatience, meanness, being out of control, OR love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control? Yes, you got it right: the later is the fruit of the Spirit: the results of holiness.
So which category is best? I think the second unless, of course, you like misery.
Of course, what’s the hindrance? We’re not really convinced God is good enough that if we give up what we think we need for whatever He might choose for us, it’ll really be that good. We think we have to protect ourselves because we know best.
But maybe if we recognize God’s good and generous grace, like Peter did, we’ll have the same response: repentance. Thankfully, even though Peter said, “Depart from me,” Jesus didn’t. Instead, Jesus invited him into the fellowship of his disciples. In fact, Jesus says, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.”
I love how Jesus says, “Do not fear.” There was fear in Peter’s repentance. A holy fear. But it came from recognizing the abundance of Jesus’ provision before Peter had even committed himself as a follower. And we know he was a very unholy man who had a lot of faults, including a major case of impulsiveness. Still, Jesus invited him in.
Here’s Piper’s words again: “Peter saw in the miracle of Jesus a treasure of hope and joy that was so wonderful he was overwhelmed with how out of sync his life as with such a treasure. If this much power and this much goodness is there in Jesus for those who trust Him, then oh! how different would be my life i I truly believed. How radical would be my obedience! What abandon would I feel in my living for such a Christ! What freedom from petty grievances and from fleeting pleasures of sin would I enjoy.”
That is my heart’s cry. And praise the Lord, I’m in the process of that journey of learning to live it out…so very slowly! I trust you and I are on that journey. Isn’t that amazing?