If you ever experienced the awkwardness that is church camp as a youth, no doubt the following scene will make you laugh and possibly cry tears of embarrassment. Imagine this if you will: thousands of students standing after the evening sermon has been preached by the edgy-yet-somewhat-fundamental speaker that week, some are singing whatever the “invitation song” is, some are looking at their friends, some guy just got the nerve up to tell the girl he’s had a crush on all week that he wants to take her on a nice date after the service, while others are spaced out because they yet again survived sitting through an hour of “boring” preaching without looking at their PSP or other portable gaming device that they were forced to leave behind to attend this “hell”. And then, after the “altar call” for salvation has sounded, the hammer drops. The dreaded “recommitment” message is blasted for two reasons; (a) not enough students came forward during the call for salvation, and the camp really wants to pad their numbers, and (b) the camp leadership wants to make sure all students and leaders have had the chance to be guilted into the self righteous idea that their lives have fallen short of where God’s will for them is because they don’t want to spend their entire summer at a camp where you are treated like underpaid slaves.“Recommit your life to Him today! Try harder! Come forward and MAKE A DECISION!!!”
God's Kindness Leads to True Repentance
Repentance is great. Recommitment not so much. And there is a massive difference between the two. To understand the differences between these two ideas, we only need to go to one place, Scripture itself. For starters let’s remember that it’s God’s kindness that leads you to true repentance (Rom. 2:4), and He is the source of repentance, not you. Yes, you may have walked an aisle, said a prayer, and got dunked, but it’s all because the Holy Spirit has hunted you down that you’re here. Ephesians 2:8 says even the faith you have to believe in the Gospel was given to you, so that way you couldn’t boast. You have nothing. Ok, point is made I think.
The big compare/contrast of this discussion can be summed up in two different texts. The first is pretty obvious, 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Notice something if you will. There is a difference between conviction of sin and religious guilt. I see the most errors in the pulpit over this well-intentioned idea, but see it fall flat on its face time and time again. Pastors will say they are preaching the Gospel, but when they don’t preach the cross of Christ and say things to guilt an audience into coming forward to “get right with God”, that is where I get angry. Please do not be deceived by guilt.
The Right Conviction Leads to True Salvation
Second, notice that the right kind of conviction (aka the Holy Spirit) will lead you to true salvation. There is no need to doubt your salvation or faith if you know that you have truly been convicted in your sin. I don’t know about you, but I’m half sorrowful/half joyful over my sin, because I feel the discipline of God over me, and that is great news! That means you’re His (Heb. 12: 5-6). When you understand how repentance is different (and better) from a guilt-driven recommitment, you have no regrets. You sin, yes, but you know that you’re covered by grace, and not by your mistakes or successes. But your conviction doesn’t come from yourself, the Enemy of your soul, or the world, it comes from God. What does 1 John 1:9 say? “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What a beautiful promise! Why would we ever settle for anything less than this?!?
Recommitment Is About You, Repentance Is About God
Quickly, the last text I want to look at is Hebrews 6:1. “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.” If you are constantly being preached to recommit your life to the Lord, or if you feel that is constantly coming at you and not a message of grace and the Gospel, then you are never going to grow into the deeper things of God and you will miss things you were meant to experience as a believer. Here are a couple of things to consider when looking at repentance and recommitment. Recommitment is about you; repentance is about God. Recommitment is about pride; repentance is about humility. Recommitment is about your need to feel better; repentance is about the Cross. Be careful which path you choose.