If the need to change wasn’t an issue, then Christianity would be a cinch. Free ticket to heaven? Great! Jesus loves me? Amen! He has a hope and future for me? That’s what I want too!
But, I shouldn’t be conformed to the patterns of this world?
I need to repent?
Put off my old self?
That’s much more difficult to embrace.
It is easy to accept the grace of God in the beginning of our salvation walk. That’s the glorious moment when you first realize that Jesus truly forgave you of your past so that you can move forward with hope. You cry tears of gratitude. You raise your hands with praise. People congratulate and encourage you.
But what happens when your addictions come back to haunt you the next day?
What happens when you commit the very sins that you told God you would never do again? What happens when the passions and desires of your flesh drown out the praises you hoped to give to Jesus?
Those who struggle to change find themselves constantly waging war with their mind and flesh. And that war becomes extremely discouraging and lonely.
This is where repentance is deeply misunderstood.
The word “repentance” itself carries a stigma in today’s culture, therefore inflicting offense and pressure on many who do not fully understand the beauty of its meaning. When we think of repentance, we think of the need to meet standards, the need to respond to a fear of condemnation. We feel burdened with the need to change, and change does not always come easy.
However, the essence of repentance is not sacrificial.
It’s easy to feel that we are making a sacrifice, because we personally surrender fleshly pleasures and earthly attachments. For the sake of appeasing the displeased King, we must be willing to give up what we idolize. We must fix our bad behaviors. We strive. We relinquish. We turn over on our backs to say, “You win.”
This misconception of repentance only breeds a sense of self-condemnation, shame, and religious pressure. You will never change if this is how you view repentance. You would only be hiding.
Adam and Eve were gravely aware of how deeply they fell in Genesis 3:7. For the first time, they felt the sting of shame and realized their nakedness for the first time. No longer were they in sync with their Creator. They made a mistake, which would undoubtedly invite His wrath. Yet, they took one wrong turn and then another when they mistakenly believed that they could fix the situation by their own strength. They took the time to gather fig leaves and sew them together. They strived to cover their fallenness and make things right on their own. They failed. This is because the essence of repentance is not sacrificial. It was not about fixing oneself by oneself.
Rather, repentance is relational.
Acts 3:19 says, “Repent, then, and turn to God…”
Every time repentance is called for in the Bible, there’s an element of turning away from sin and turning towards God. Meaning, repentance is incomplete unless the Presence of God is involved.
With every renouncing of bad thoughts and hurtful actions, there must be an invitation of the Holy Spirit. With every “Lord, I repent for…” you must have a “Jesus, what would you like to say to me at this moment?” With every “Jesus, I let this go…” you must have a “Holy Spirit, what do you want to replace it with?”
It is not the apology that changes you, nor is it the rejection of sin that restores you from your depravity. No, it is the powerful, gracious, and loving Presence of Jesus Christ that does all these things. Transformation transpires as you are in deep connection with Him.
Bottomline, you can’t change — at least not on your own.
When Jesus calls you to repent, it is not a command for you to go off and fix the mess you have made. No, it is a call for you to come closer to Him.
It is time to break up with sin. Yes, it is time to say goodbye to your idols. Whatever it is that is debasing you, lying to you, and consuming you must go. However, with every break up with sin, there must be a reconnection with Him.
That reconnected relationship is your lifeline. He is the joy that outshines all earthly joys. He is the peace that rings louder than all the world’s demands. He is the comfort that floods over all wounds and pains. Repentance is saying yes to this relationship with Jesus Christ.
It is never too late nor is anyone ever too far from giving this yes cry to Jesus. For the cross is forever His yes cry to you.