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For the Christian, what does repentance look like?  I get glimmers here and there, but it has been a difficult topic for me to grab hold of.   A few Sundays ago our Sunday School teacher** was very helpful.  I’ll be digesting those comments for awhile.

As believers, our life is one of:

  • Repentance

  • Faith

Yes, two words that often are misunderstood, frequently because we don’t really understand them!  We’re working on the first one now.

Repentance is made up of

  • Unmasking Sin–getting to the root of it, not just cleaning up the outside.
  • Crucifying Flesh–it is difficult to kill what we haven’t identified.

When we talk about unmasking sin we are talking about identifying the idols in our hearts.  It is a lot like the difference between pulling a weed out at ground level and pulling it out along with its root.

We commit sins all day long.  Some, we are keenly aware of, like yelling at our spouse or children, losing our temper with friends, lying, etc.  Those are obvious and difficult to ignore.  That doesn’t mean we don’t try, but they are really almost impossible to ignore!  They are out there and if we are anywhere near honest with ourselves, we need to deal with what the problem is.  Others are more internal like our desires, thoughts, grudges, etc.  It is very easy to pretend they aren’t as evil as they are.  We can’t look at them or see their effect in the eyes of others.  But their existence is still very much evident.

We can rationalize until pigs fly, but the person who lost their temper was you/me!  It wasn’t the other person.  There are plenty of other people in the same circumstances who don’t react the same way.  It is not the fault of the other person, or the situation.  Yes, we can blame them.  That doesn’t mean they caused the problem.  The truth is, they reveal a problem that is there!  YOU (or I) were the ones who sinned.

Did they cause the behavior?  NO!  They bumped into the the cup of poison…and it spilled poison all over the place.  It is what is in the cup that needs to be changed…not the person who bumps into the cup!

We must be brutally honest with ourselves regarding this.  If you are fortunate, you have a spouse  or close friend who will help you here.  They can love you and still tell you the truth…especially if you ask them to…and you actually hear their response!  If you don’t have a spouse or this kind of friend, who will either tell you the truth or to whom you will truly listen, then you will be forced by circumstances to listen to GOD pointing out the problem.  I feel sorry for you.  That is a much more difficult way to learn.  I have been there too.

When you think about unmasking, this is a difficult part of the process if you have never done it.  It is the path to humility, closer relationships, and realizing the kind of change you ultimately want in your life!  This is rarely done in one sit-down.  

It will be a process…but that is how GOD works in our lives.  Growth is like that.  He changes us from the inside out!  He isn’t interested in cosmetic change.  That is the kind of change He hates!  The Pharisees were great at it.  Jesus hated it…because it was fake!  It isn’t genuine change.

Questions you can ask yourself diagnostically to see where your root idols are that will be helpful in genuine repentance:

  • Where do I get my identity?  and how does my life situation or another person’s behavior show it up?
  • Who am I?  and how does this other person’s behavior reveal my view of myself/show that up?
  • What is taking title to my heart’s functional trust...other than Jesus?  If He truly has title to the functional trust of my whole heart, why is ___’s behavior or this life situation upsetting me so much?  Could it be that anxiety, rage, fear, ___ are really running my life?  and that I’m kidding myself when I think that Jesus is?
  • When I think about my life and what it would take to be satisfied/content/happy, what is the one thing I think I need to be at that place?  That will give me a clear diagnostic of my heart’s idol.
Yes, I’ve gone to meddling…sort of.  Hopefully, you will allow the Holy Spirit to “meddle” in your life and show you some areas that need work.  If you ask for help in identifying root idols of the heart, you will find change that will be encouraging…because it will get at the real problems, not just cosmetic changes that don’t mean anything.
There is more, but my words are out for today.  Take some time to think about these questions that are diagnostic and will help you get to the root of your heart idols.  We’ll talk more next week.

Where do you get your identity?

Who has title to your heart’s functional trust?

What do you need to be content/happy?

**Our teacher, Wade Skinner helped me with them and he was helped with ideas from Tim Keller along with training he had in seminary.  I don’t know where one stops and the other starts.  I just know I need to credit Wade for his help.