The second week’s reading on the Lent devotional titled Journey to the Cross, was on the topic of repentance.
As I have grown in my understanding of repentance I have learned that DAILY repentance is a must for every follower of Christ…well at least it is for me.
Several years ago, I actually believed that once I repented of my “really big” sins at the time of my conversion, there really was no need to keep repenting of sins. What sins for heavens sake? I was a new creation in Christ and I was doing a lot of good things for God. What in the world did I need to repent of?
I was a good person….
I went to church 2 times a week.
I served in various ministries.
I started and lead missions teams.
I read my Bible often.
I participated in any Bible study that came my way.
I lead a few of my own Bible studies.
I prayed together at night with the kids.
We prayed at every meal.
We listened to Christian music….all the time.
I stopped cussing.
I didn’t drink alcohol anymore.
I didn’t dress inappropriately anymore.
Since my conversion, the outside my cup was clean for goodness sake. What in the world did I need to repent of? (oozing sarcasm)
Then my family moved.
To an isolated town.
We lived isolated lives.
For several years.
All the “good” things I relied on to present to the world and myself that I was a good person and/or a “good” Christian was stripped from me.
God started showing me some things that I was not prepared to to see.
Things about myself.
Things about my self perceived “goodness”.
All the “good” Christian things I was doing, actually blinded me to the fact that I was drenched in sin.
I was full of pride.
I was full of self righteousness.
I was full of a boastfulness in MY “good work”.
I was full of over confidence in my ability to do whatever I wanted to do.
I had no self control over my thoughts, my emotions or my anger.
Literally….I can keep going.
The reality was……
AND….for the most part…..
I STILL AM!!
However, as I painfully grow in knowledge of self awareness through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, which I have learned is a gift from God, I have realized that I need to repent daily.
Many times, often in any given day.
Since pride is one of the things I struggle with most, I can easily recognize it in others….especially in my kids.
The other day my son threw a fit because he didn’t get what he wanted. His outward behavior showed that he was upset and he didn’t want to complete his expected morning chores. He even drew a picture of himself with an angry face and wrote down the initials of all his family members and drew a big fat X on them. He showed it to me and said he didn’t want anyone in his room.
At first I just ignored his temper tantrum but it got to a point where I could not any longer. I called him into my room, sat him down and talked gently to him as I addressed his behavior. I explained to him that sometimes we don’t always get what we want and we need to have patience with those around us. I explained to him that it’s OK to be mad, but he still had to be obedient.
After my attempt to reassure him, I told him I loved him. With angry squinty tear filled eyes he just looked at me. Expecting a response from him, I told him I loved him again. He continued to outwardly show that he wanted nothing to do with my reassurance of love and understanding. I could literally see pride welling up and oozing out of his person. He didn’t want to tell me that he loved me because he was still mad. Very mad.
I had no other words to tell him, so I just pulled him close and started praying for/with him. I prayed that God would melt the pride growing inside his heart and that the Holy Spirit would convict him to do what was right and to give him understanding that sometimes we don’t need to always get what we want, when we want it.
I then sent him to complete his chores.
Good mamma work…..right?
The blog post could easily end there. I could easily boast about my wonderful patient Christian parenting skills. Right?
Unfortunately, the story does not end there.
I walked into the kitchen and my husband tells me we needed to do some grocery shopping and had a paper and pen in his hand and was already fully engaged in a grocery list.
I looked at him….confused……with anger welling up in my heart.
Why was he making a list for heavens sake….that’s MY department.
Why was he trying to do MY job. Did he think I was incompetent? Did he think I was a slacker?
So many ugly and prideful thoughts were running through my mind.
I failed to remember that I had JUST prayed with my son over his anger and pride issues 5 minutes prior. I was too self obsessed with my own anger….my own pride.
My husband immediately recognized that I was not welcoming his help and asked me what was wrong. I told him “nothing”.
My pride blinded me.
My anger blinded me.
Let’s see….that makes me an angry, prideful liar. Right? The inside of my cup looks pretty filthy.
He left the kitchen to ask the kids what meals they wanted to be put on the menu for the week.
I am humbly and gloriously thankful that repentance is a gift from God because in the middle of dealing with my own sin, I would never think to pray.
My flesh WANTED to be mad.
My flesh WANTED to feel hurt by my husbands’ accusations of incompetence (even if the accusations were just in my head)
But….when the Holy Spirit goes against my flesh….the Holy Spirit wins EVERY TIME.
SO…..I took this time to pray for my husband.
I initially prayed that he would “chill out”and let me do my “wifely” duties the way I wanted to do them, when I wanted to do them.
However, while I was praying I realized that I was the one in the wrong. I realized that I was the one that needed to “chill out”. I realized that I was the one that was overreacting.
So….I repented to God.
In the act of repenting, I realize that I hate how my flesh/heart/mind operates.
In the act of repenting, I realize that God justified me by sending His perfect Son to die for my deep rooted sins.
In the act of repenting, I realize that I don’t have to wallow in despair over my sin because I also remember that Jesus said He was going to send a comforter, which is the Holy Spirit.
In the act of repenting, the Holy Spirit convicts, humbles and equips me…all at the same time….. to see how I am wrong and I am shown that I need to apologize to my husband.
In the act of repenting, I realize that the Holy Spirit is a true gift of God because there is NO way I could have figured all of this out on my own.
None of what I just described was any of MY personal doing.
All of it was completely God. This was all of His work. I cannot boast in any of it.
I am reminded of last week’s devotional and what repentance looks like.
“Repentance is a response to God’s grace- It leads to joy and restoration. Not frustration from trying harder and not despairing from beating yourself up.”
I could easily despair from the fact that I default to sinful reactions in my thoughts and actions. But I am reminded that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1-4)
“Repentance is addressed to God.”
Yes, outwardly my sin appeared to be addressed towards my husband. But in reality, inwardly, my sin was against God. In my anger and prideful bent, I sinned against God by rejecting help from the man He gave me to lead me and my family. Paul was simply trying to help me and I killed him with my thoughts. So, my repentance had to start with God, thus enabling me to go to my husband for forgiveness.
“Repentance is walking in the light.”
When we don’t acknowledge our outward AND inward sin to God or attempt to cover it up or make excuses for it by blaming others, David tells us how detrimental that is. I can attest to feeling the way David felt because I have felt the consequences of not acknowledging my sin to God many times.
In Psalms 32: 3 & 4 David writes –
“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night, your hand was heavy on me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.“
Ohhhh…how I KNOW THAT feeling!
He goes to say in verses 5 & 6
“I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
This leads me to the next point, which is:
“Repentance is taking responsibility for our own sin.”
Taking responsibility for our own sin is the act of looking at our sin the way God sees it. For the most part, we cannot do this without the help and illumination of the Holy Spirit. Once we are given eyes to see, what we do next important. We will either repent or we we will not.
Taking responsibility for our own sin is extremely difficult, especially if we feel that we are or were sinned against. It is easy to excuse, justify, rationalize, undermine, even ignore our own sin….even more so if we feel that someone has hurt us or has sinned against us….especially if the sin or the hurt was of great magnitude.
If we are not aware of the danger of being sinned against we will not be fully aware that our hearts can turn bitter. The bitterness will feel like our bones are wasting away. Being sinned against will make us feel as though we expect everyone to give us a “Go and sin for free” card. We need to recognize that and ask God to create in us a clean heart. We need to ask God to renew a right spirit within us. (Psalms 51:10)
“Repentance is turning to God in faith.“
It is almost impossible to take responsibility for our own sin without the help of the Holy Spirit. Once we recognize and admit this to God, we are equipped. That takes faith.
“Repentance is initial and ongoing.”
The big idea here is not to do better or try harder in our Christian walk. That will only lead us to despair. The idea here is to repent. Ongoing repentance is a must for all true Christ followers.
If we converted to Christ as an adult, we lived lives of rebellion and sin for years….. and yes…repenting of all those sins is initially important. However, repenting of sin is not a one time event. Repenting of sin is a lifetime habit we should welcome daily. In order for us to grow to look more like Christ, its instrumental and undoubtedly necessary.
Sometimes there is a danger in people who have been Christians all their lives to not see the importance of ongoing repentance. It’s a slippery slope based on self righteousness.
Speaking from my own experience, if I became self righteous after living a “good clean” Christian life for just a few years of being a Christ follower, how much more self righteousness can occur in the heart and mind of one who has been a Christian all their lives. There is danger there.
However…there is a solution for the new and old Christian alike…that solution is REPENT TO GOD!
According to 2 Corinthians, we no longer live for ourselves. The love of Christ controls us.
Repentance is a wonderful gift. Let’s use this gift well.
(the bold highlighted words come from Journey to the Cross, p 37-38)
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)