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I really haven’t gotten into the how of repenting in this series so far. Sometimes talking about what repenting isn’t can be easier than talking about what it is. We use the word so often in church that we feel like we should know what it is. But when it gets to the nitty-gritty of defining not only what it means (we have done that) but how to do it…? Well, it gets much more complicated.
The description I’m giving on the how of repenting is coming largely from a diagram found in the book mentioned below.** I can’t share the picture with you or I would violate copyright laws. Actually, I don’t have anything online to link to it so this is the best I can do. I hope I’m not breaking copyright laws by sharing what I am. I’ll tell one of the authors so she can tell me and it will all come down if that is the case. This information is on pages 85-87 of the book. That is the diagram. It takes more pages to explain it. The diagram is done by Tami and Steve Resch. Personally, I have found it very helpful in understanding the concept of repentance on a practical level. Personally, the diagram was immensely helpful since I am very visual! You know the saying: A picture is worth a thousand words. It is so true for me.
A diagram of repentance explained
You need to picture a tree that has fruit on it with a trunk that goes down through a section of soil and roots that go down beneath it to a water source. On the left side of the page is an arrow going down from the top of the tree to the bottom of the diagram and on the right side of the page is an arrow going up. That is what the diagram looks like. Start at the left side of the page.
This is how to understand it.
FRUIT– This is what everyone sees and hears.
TRUNK-This is what is going on in your head.
SOIL-This is how the unredeemed chapters of your story affect your current story.
ROOTS-What is in your heart? (A heart of sin? Pride and unbelief)
DRY STREAMS-Turning to lesser gods/Nourishment of sin. I am unwilling to wait for Jesus’ comfort & nourishment.
This is where you get into the details
As you work your way down from the fruit, maybe it is chronic complaining for example. When working through this diagram, use one situation, one illustration of your sin. It can be a good behavior that people see or a bad behavior, but it may stem from something different going on in the trunk or in your heart.
Then look at the trunk. What is going on in your head? What are you telling yourself? Are you dissatisfied with God’s provision for you? Or is there something else going on? Take a look. What is God showing you?
Now look at the soil you grew up in. How did you respond to things during your childhood that were not good, they may have even been evil things done to you. How did you feel in terms of God’s care for you? Or were they normal events of life? Is that affecting your attitude now? Does this make sense for the area of sin you need to repent of?
Sometimes we think the problem is one place until we work our way down the tree. Then we find out the problem is in another place. Often the original “sin” was very superficial. If we stop there, we won’t get to the root of the problem. As we work our way down, we realize that to get to the root of the problem, there is something much deeper and very different from what we thought the original problem was. We may have a deep dissatisfaction with God and the way we feel He didn’t care for us when we were young. We need to look at that and get a bigger picture on it. Is it even true that He wasn’t caring for us or are we conveniently forgetting the ways He cared for us? Were the circumstances we didn’t like actually His protection of us?
Can you see why repenting takes some time? This is especially true when it comes to habitual sin or habitual lies that we have failed to deal with. It is likely we haven’t really gotten to the root of those sins as we have dealt with them in the past.
Now we are finally at the roots. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we must see the root of our sin for what it is. Is it pride or unbelief? It may be something else, but pride or unbelief covers most of it. Where is our pride or unbelief keeping us from repenting of our sin? Where is it holding us back in some way?
Then on to the dry streams. This is how they get dry.
- What are the lesser gods that we worship? A desire for comfort over glorifying God? A desire for temporal things over the eternal?
- What sin do we chronically nourish and delight in? It is difficult to admit these to ourselves. That is why it is best to journal this thinking for yourself. Getting it down in black and white is good for you to see.
- Are you willing to wait for Jesus’ comfort and nourishment? It is easy to want these things to be resolved in 5 minutes so we don’t have to stew in them. But sometimes, we need to think for awhile. The enormity of the problem needs to weigh on us a bit. We need to be pulled away from our escapist activities…and I have plenty. But this mulling over my sin in no way is necessary in any sense of doing penance. It is merely helpful to understand aspects of the root of where my sin comes from in order to get it out and deal with it. I need to want to get rid of it. Often that is a problem. I don’t always really want to.
Jesus already paid for our sin. There is nothing more we can do in terms of any spiritual activity to pay for our sin. Jesus paid the full price for all of our sin on the cross over 2000 years ago! That is a given. If we are a child of God, the sin is paid for in full. But we often suffer from the consequences of living in a fallen world, of living in a place where we tend to believe lies rather than the truth. We need to grow in learning to turn from sin and return to Jesus.
That was how we turn from our sin. This is how we turn to Christ…also part of the process of repentance
STREAMS OF LIVING WATER-and this is where we begin going up the tree. Instead of dry streams, we identify our lesser gods and turn from them (in relation to this specific sin). We worship and nourish our faith in Christ. We soak our hearts in Jesus and in the truth of God’s Word. That’s why it is so helpful to memorize Scripture. We have it handy in our minds to combat the lies that are often thrown at us.
Now this is the Streams of living water. I realize i’m mixing metaphors and real life actions. It can be confusing. I will include some claims Jesus made about Himself below. The Bible also is called God’s Word. The claims Jesus made about Himself would also extend to the words found in His Word, the Bible. This is one reason we consistently worship God in church. That consistent time of corporate worship keeps up reminded of God: who He is and what He has promised in the context of His Word and community of His people.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,
but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.
The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water,
so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
John 4:13-15 ESV (from the conversation with the woman at the well. He was not talking about literal water.)
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out,
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
John 7:37-38 ESV
ROOTS-Now a heart of faith is in my heart instead of a heart of sin. Humility and belief is there instead of pride and unbelief. It isn’t magic. It grows as a result of the work of God’s Spirit. as I repent.
SOIL-Working my way up is the setting for faith, the soil of my story. God redeems those chapters of my story as I learn to see how He redeemed and rescued me. Often, there is no way to see these things without the vision that the Spirit gives as well as those in the community of believers around me. It is often too much for me to be able to see those things on my own. Sometimes I may even need counseling to see through another person’s eyes how good God truly was to me.
TRUNK-The trunk shows me how God is changing the motivation of faith as He changes my thoughts and attitudes. Changes in my thoughts and motives will show to me first.
FRUIT-Finally, the manifestations of faith will show to others as I live out the changing motives of my life in the fruit of my words and actions. Often, my actions won’t be drastically different. They will change, but the change may not be overnight. It would be nice if they were. But over weeks and months, the change will be noticed.
God’s fruit will be seen. God will be glorified. How good is that? I will be changed from the inside out. I will be learning to repent. My corner of God’s world will be changing. Often, I will enjoy those unseen gifts of the Spirit that I never enjoyed before because the problem was often found in the area of my heart and motives. That isn’t the case for everyone however.
**The resource is a book Beyond Duct Tape by Shari Thomas and Tami Resch. It is the backbone of a course and organization for church planter’s wives titled Parakaleo. I took the course online earlier this year (2021) and found a lot of help in the area of repentance. I highly recommend it to all pastors’ wives.