True repentance and revival

 Devotional by Jesse Leland – April 5, 2020

“Therefore say to them, thus declares the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts” – Zechariah 1:3

True repentance is the restoration of God’s rightful authority over our life.  This is the gateway into the Christian life – true repentance founded in a sincere response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  But it doesn’t stop there, because though we have been made slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:17), we still sin (1 John 1:8).  So, ongoing repentance is necessary in the life of individual Christians. But what about corporate repentance (i.e. of a body or group)?  Is that called for anywhere in the scriptures?

If a Christian ‘church’ (i.e. in Greek ‘ekklesia’ – a group of people gathered together) comprises a group of regenerated, yet not wholly sanctified believers (i.e. that still sin), surely they commit corporate sin that also necessitates ongoing repentance (i.e. a return to God).  Throughout early church history and through to recent times, God has periodically softened his people’s hearts causing them to corporately “…Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5) and return to him.  Beyond Zechariah’s prophecy to the remnant, an obvious text for answering whether corporate repentance is called for in the New Testament is found in the letter to the Laodicean church (Revelation 3:14–22).  Specifically, in verse 19 Christ himself addresses the church as a whole – “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”.

The sin of the Laodicean church can be summarised as spiritual self-contentment (see verses 15–17). They weren’t reproved for being murderous, or sexually immoral, but simply thought that they had things ‘worked out’ and that nurturing a lukewarm faith was enough – to which Jesus emphatically responds “…I will spit you out of my mouth.”.  Sobering stuff, isn’t it? 

The LORD declaring himself as the author of Zechariah’s prophecy three times in a single sentence is not hyperbolic.  God himself is punctuating his call to true corporate repentance (and revival!), with the most powerful thing that can be uttered – His great name – while clearly placing the responsibility to return on us, because our sin causes separation from him (e.g. see Isaiah 59:2).

Our sovereign and holy God longs to revive his church.  During this challenging time of social distancing, and amid all the Coronavirus upheaval, let’s carefully consider our spiritual state before the LORD and seek to return to him in every way.  Let’s “…cast aside every encumbrance [i.e. hindrance or impediment] and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1–2).  Brothers and sisters, let’s take repentance more seriously.  An imperishable crown of glory awaits us.