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Photo of man bowing head in prayer.



Link to other posts in this Lenten series

**  ***see notes below

Yes, I’m doing a series for Lent. Even caregivers are living through Lent. Many of us have heard the word repentance or repent if we have been in church for any time. But how do we do it in real life? The more I hear the word, the less I think I truly understand it. Over the past few years, I have understood it more than I once did. In fact, the concept of repentance has opened up much more to me than what it did,

Repent means return

The meaning of the Hebrew word translated repent carries the concept of return. It is not an emotional word that carries the feelings of remorse, sadness or guilt for what we did wrong, even though that may be present. Rather, it is more of an action word that carries the idea of turning away from my sin and returning to God.

The parable of the Prodigal Son is a beautiful picture of that concept. The son didn’t stay with the pigs, but rather decided to return to the Father. It was a decision. But that decision included a long trip home. He had to keep persevering until he was home. Repentance includes one decision with many small decisions in the direction of returning to the Father. (I’m not an expert here on the original languages. I looked it up.) In very simple terms, that is what it is for us.

Repentance starts with one decision followed by many small decisions in the same direction–away from sin, toward God.

It is an initial decision to repent and turn from sin and toward God and many decisions after that to do the same thing as we are challenged by new awareness of our specific sins of both commission and omission.

The goal is not to make us feel guilty, but for us to repent and turn to God for assistance in our times of need.

The goal is not to make us feel guilty. The goal is repentance. Guilt is not a positive motivation. Saul felt guilty. So did Judas Iscariot,..eventually. So did many others in the Bible. What did it produce? Nothing positive in terms of change. Guilt or feeling guilty is useless. Nothing comes of it.

The corresponding examples were David and Peter. David’s sin was certainly no less than Saul’s. It was awful! But when it was pointed out to him, he immediately repented. and moved toward God, recognizing that in the end, his sin was ultimately against God.

Peter’s sin was quite similar to Judas’ sin. He also was broken up with sadness and regret when he realized what he had done. But once he had the opportunity, he ran (well, swam) to Jesus to repent for his sin rather than stew in guilt.

What God is looking for as he pursues us, is a repentant heart, That comes from people whose hearts have been changed. These are people that He has given a new heart to as promised in Ezekiel even though they may not even be aware of it yet. It is a work He does in us. We may be 4. We my be 74 when we respond to His pursuit of us. But He has been working in our heart all along.

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.
And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes
and be careful to obey my rules.

Ezekiel 36:25-27 ESV

The encouraging thing about the Gospel is that it is the Good News. We don’t have to use guilt to give people the good news. That wouldn’t make it good news. The Gospel is Good News because the natural guilt we all tend to carry or try to cover up can be totally dealt with when we repent and return to Jesus. He freely forgives and helps us toward the changes we need to make…not just on our own, but through the community of the Church.

On some level, we realize that God is good and we can trust Him to mete out justice. We can come to Him as we are since He already knows just how bad our mess really is. We can honestly ask His forgiveness with a view to change because we want change. We know we must walk away from sin and toward Him. On some level, we have tasted the effects of sin running rampant in our lives and we don’t like it.

Some of us truly hate it. Some of us are mildly uncomfortable. Therein lies the rub in terms of the level of our repentance. True repentance, of course, involves a hatred of our sin and its effects on our relationship with God. Not all of us understand that kind of repentance…but we need to.

Jesus is the only way to God…He is God!

He is the only way to heaven and God. That’s the rub. People don’t like that. They want to think they can help. They want to think that He is one of the ways. But Jesus is exclusive. Think about if you actually were the God of the Universe. If everything He claims about Himself is actually true. Would you want to share your glory with anyone else?

If you died to pay for the sin of all who would believe in you, would you want this way of salvation to be only one of the ways to heaven? You died an excruciating death! You carried the weight of all sin of all people for generations on yourself! It wasn’t deserved. It is ludicrous to think that you would be so open-minded that you would allow anyone to come to God by any other route!

Of course He is exclusive. He should be. He isn’t being arrogant to be exclusive. He is Almighty God!

Repentance is a one time decision and many little decisions in the same direction.

More next time.

***As I have read over this, I’m noticing a lot of influence from a recent online Bible study I was in taught by Paige Benton Brown on I Samuel. I wish I could link to it but there is nothing to link to except to West End Community Church in Nashville, TN where she teaches on occasion. If you get on the email list there, you will be informed when she teaches another study. Here is a link to the church website where you can get more info.

**I know I write to mostly Christian caregivers. But this is also the season of Lent. Since I have been going through some spiritual struggles and doldrums lately, I’m sure I’m not unique. My plan is to write more frequent posts on the topic of repentance during lent than my weekly ones along with some additional material. I hope you find it encouraging and helpful.