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Photo by Olivia Snow on Unsplash

 

During this period of COVID, I have had a lot of opportunity to listen to truth. I had opportunity before, of course. But somehow, when all the hardship of this past year converged, more than simply a worldwide pandemic came on the scene. It came with an election, with the awareness that our country was even more broken than we thought, with rioting and continued signs of division in our nation.

It would have been nice to think this division was only out there…away from the neat confines of our churches and our Christian spaces. But alas, this was another place where the symptoms of the problem showed themselves. Even here, sadly. It has been a problem for years.

We all wish we could say that within the walls of our churches we love each other regardless of skin color. bank account, chronic sin. But is that really true? Those of us who have been in the church realize it often isn’t true. We, as Americans, tend to be more white, middle to upper class, and have our list of chronic sins we tolerate and those we don’t.

The truth hurts my pride and this view I had of myself.

After returning from Jamaica, we lived in a city that was multicultural. We enjoyed it. Then we moved to a smaller town in Texas. It was quite different and it was difficult to find the mix I was used to apart from my job. It was as if I had to live in two worlds. I was busy with work and family and church and husband. There was no room for being a pioneer too. I didn’t know some of the things I have learned more recently. I will have to trust that GOD’s path for me at that time was the one He had for me. But I missed the mix in my life of cultures and colors.

That is how we have lived in mostly segregated churches for many years. It wasn’t intentional, nor did we exclude anyone intentionally. But we paid a heavy price for it. It has affected our view of the gospel as something that is very neat and clean and tidy like much of middle class America shows itself to be. (Not how it actually is.) It has only been in recent years I have realized how truly messy the Gospel is. It’s those of us who first find it when GOD finds us in the middle of our mess and saves us from ourselves.

The Gospel is for the messy as we begin to grow in grace. It is a very messy process! It is something like a two-year-old learning to eat.

But the part we often forget is that throughout the rest of our lives, the Gospel is for the messy too. When GOD makes us spiritually alive and our eyes are opened to what is actually going on in our hearts, we begin to see the mess that is there…when we are willing to look. We don’t just sin, say,  “I’m sorry” and move on.

Repentance is a bit larger than that, as I have ben learning. I become aware I have sinned. But part of the process of repenting includes taking time to think about patterns that exist in my life that encourage and nourish that sin, feeding it along the way.

When GOD makes us spiritually alive and our eyes are opened to what is actually going on in our hearts, we begin to see the mess that is there...when we are willing to look. Click To Tweet

Here’s an example

For example, i may become aware that I am not completing some basic responsibilities to properly care for my family and home. My house is a mess. The dishes are not under control, laundry is piling up consistently, clean clothes are not available when needed and disorder is at every turn. There is likely some sin involved here. It not so much that I have to repent for not washing the dishes. It’s more a matter of some slothful habits that I may have to look into or some other areas of sinful habit patterns I need to deal with. (I’m not talking about taking a day or two off from everything for a break, I”m talking a consistent habit pattern.)

That’s why I can’t tell you what your sin is most of the time. You need to sit down and listen to what God has to say to you in His Word and in the quiet of your heart. I don’t know the motivations of your heart. Sometimes, you don’t either. I don’t know the ways you have been hurt in the past. You need to sit still long enough to let GOD show you. Only GOD knows the entire picture. He is the One who can show you where you need His work. Just remember that because of His work on the cross for you, His smile is on you. You don’t have to earn His favor.

What is the truth?

Am I using tiredness to excuse not doing my work around the house? Where is my tiredness coming from? Do I need to have more structure in my life such as certain get-up and go-to-bed times? Do I need to cut out some TV watching? Time on the internet? Time spent reading?

None of those things are bad on their own. But compared to the responsibilities I have, what kind of time am I spending on the escapes? Or is my sinful area related to the desire to people-please so I find that when people ask me to volunteer, it is difficult to say, “No.” In the process, I end up spending too much time and energy away from home doing other things and I can’t keep up with my basic responsibilities at home.

As I said, none of these things alone are wrong or even sinful by themselves. Doing things outside the home are fine, in their place. I have to find a way to have those responsibilities done first with the cooperation of my spouse and children. My spouse and I need to come to mutually agreed upon.agreements regarding my outside commitments…and his actually. This way we show each other respect and show honor to ou commitments to each other as a couple. If our children are still in the home, it adds to both our obligations to the family as a whole.

As you look at the ways you have had sinful patterns of behavior that have caused you and those you love, a bad outcome, you can be honest with yourself, listen to the truth from your spouse and confess to GOD, the behaviors that you know to be sinful as well as the underlying motivations that you know are encouraging sinful behavior. Out of this may come some changes you need to make in the way you live your life before GOD. It may spread to others in the family as well.

The final step in repentance

As you open yourself to GOD and repent of your sinful behavior and habit patterns, ask GOD to change you. Thank Him for Jesus who stood for you and paid the penalty for your sin.

Lastly, part of believing the truth is that we must believe Jesus when He tells us that we (His children) are forgiven. Sometimes, that is a difficult truth to believe as well. The Bible is full of passages that remind us that we are forgiven when we come to GOD with repentant hearts, seeking His forgiveness. We don’t have to grovel. His forgiveness is a free gift. We just have to believe He has given it to us…each time. Yes, we might be disgusted to have to receive it again, but we are not GOD! He is GOD. Satan is the one who loves to lie to us, telling us that GOD is tired of having us come to Him AGAIN for the same sin! That isn’t true.

…giving thanks to the Father,
who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and
transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:12-14 ESV

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and
to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

I John 1:8-10 ESV

As we go into 2021, it is important for us to remember that we are alive in Christ or in other places Paul talks about how we are new creatures in Christ. We have new hearts that are alive spiritually to Christ if we are His child.

This means that there are times we do the right thing, There are times we are actually motivated by something good because the Spirit is at work in us.

We can be encouraged if we see it in our own lives, but more likely we will see it in another person’s life. It is a sign of growth. Particularly if we notice that they are doing things now that they would never have done a year ago or 3 years ago. It is good to comment on that and tell them we see GOD at work in their lives in specific ways.