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As part of my Lenten meditations, both for you and mostly for myself, I’m working through thoughts on repentance, what it means and looks like in real life. Often, it seems that i realize I need to repent when my sin gets to painful for me to continue in it. Then I pay attention.
A recent online Bible study of I Samuel taught by Paige Benton Brown has definitely been digging around in my heart. Yes, it is a lot like that early Spring gardening as I dig up those deeply rooted weeds that are especially difficult to pull up. Or as I decide to dig up that pesky bush that has stopped blooming in the corner and is one big mess! It is a mess to dig up. It is awkward to get to the curb. It causes a lot of disruption all the way around! And the hole it leaves in the yard is massive.
And of course, there is all the additional muck and debris that must be added to the soil to make it fertile and fluffy in the ways it needs to be. Do you want those hydrangeas to be periwinkle blue? Then you will have to add at least pine needles. You may have to add more in order to get the soil acidic enough. What does the fruit of your gardening need to look like and be like from the inside out? The soil it grows in will determine that as well as how much water it gets,
Seeing where I fall short and admitting it, is only the beginning of the process of repentance.
The digging and plowing has been taking place in my heart and mind for weeks now. I see where I fall short. I realize I need to make time to sit and think, allowing the Spirit to do His work. But often I don’t want to do it. It is a lot like going to the dentist when there is a toothache. Part of the process will involve pain in order to get rid of my present pain. I don’t want that. In the end I will feel better, but do I want to go through the painful process I must go through to get rid of the pain? Yes and no. In the end, I go to the dentist to get rid of my pain. And in the end, I go to Jesus. But sometimes the pain has to be pretty bad before I go. I hate to admit it, but it is often true.
The pain has gotten bad
That is why I am working on this series. I tend to wait until I have a spiritual toothache rather than deal with my issues when they are smaller and more manageable. As if my sin can be managed. As if by dealing with my sin more frequently, I will have less pain and can have a more pain free life…something my idol loving self would adore! And so I ramble, realizing how much of my heart is showing. I’m showing how much I am like Saul and how little I am like David and truly want to repent. My emotional pain has to be bad before I am willing to stop and deal with the mess I truly am. Once again, I find I’m not truly repentant for my sin against God. It seems I’m must more bothered by my own misery.
If I allow weeds to take over my garden, it takes a lot of work to clean the garden up. It is that way in my heart. If I let my heart go and don’t keep it in check, under the tutelage of the Spirit, clearing away the mess takes longer and it is more painful as well.
The difficulty with the topic of repentance is that in many ways, it is a big topic. It is both a long term and short term action for the Christian. Yet unfortunately, many of us see it as a one time action. Then we’re done. As in, we repent and come to Christ to become a Christian in the first place. Then we are done. But in fact, that is when we begin a lifestyle of repentance, Sadly, not everyone teaches this way and among those who do, not all live it out in a clear way.
Repentance is a confusing topic at times. When we get talking about it, we can confuse what we are talking about.
Are we talking about the initial time a person comes to Christ to repent, realizing how they have offended God, repenting from their sin and turning to Him for forgiveness? As they take on those clean robes of righteousness for the first time, realizing Christ has no taken on their sin and fully paid for it, there is joy and relief!
A lifestyle of repentance is a little different…but not by much. It is just more everyday. I pay attention to my sin and failures on a regular basis. I also remember God’s grace and forgiveness with joy and appreciation. It’s all a daily process.
But when we come the first time in response to God’s pursuit of us, to turn from sin, that is when we receive a new heart, a heart of flesh instead of a stony heart as I have often quoted in Ezekiel 36. That is also when we receive the Holy Spirit who guides us into truth. He helps us understand the Bible, God’s Word. He reminds us of truth when we need to be reminded. Throughout the New Testament, we read many descriptions of what He does.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth,
for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak,
and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
He will glorify me (Jesus),
for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
John 16:13-14 ESV
But the truth is that we now have that new heart that is open to God now. It is true that in this broken world, we will not function as perfect people, but in the eyes of God, we are perfect in a judicial sense. and when we stand before God, we will be able to stand in His righteousness, not our own and thus “earn” our way to heaven. It is wonderful! It is an amazing provision.