Christian Oxymoron: ‘Repentance On My Terms’

Isaiah 30:15
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”

Acts 3:19
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…

God is so good and so merciful to all of us! Just last night, He showed up in a rather-uncomfortable manner but – entirely consistent with His promises in Romans 8:28-29 – He opened my heart to see that injecting some discomfort into an otherwise-pleasant conversation was for my good, intended to conform me more and more to the image of His Son, Jesus.

Godly SorrowThe details aren’t all that important, but may help to illustrate the point. Along with some other friends, my wife and I were discussing recent changes we have seen God making in our lives and how those changes have brought forth “fruit” in our lives and in the lives of others. (Or something like that.) I had only just finished sharing how much God has been helping me to “step down from the throne of my own life” when the conversation took an unanticipated turn. Not at all prepared to respond with my Good Boy Church Face, I at once went on the offensive to shut down another person, someone who I deeply respect, love and admire.

So much for stepping down from the throne of my own life! Clearly, there is plenty more work to do in the categories of “meekness” and “humility.” But here’s something I thought worth noting and (for better or worse) sharing with ESI readers: In His mercy, love and kindness, the realization that the Spirit of God had just revealed something to me took hold almost at once: “So you think you’re doing pretty good here, huh?” That sort of thing. It was humiliating, but in the best possible manner. After all, I was surrounded by friends, all of whom love Jesus and expect to be called upon to forgive the random moral failures of their friends. Friends like me.

It hardly matters that my Sunday had been a rather trying one. What I said at the table last night was in fact true; Jesus has been working to soften my heart and expand my love for serving others. How like God, though, to help me set aside anything remotely resembling pride by immediately showing me so clearly that much remains to be done. My heart is not nearly as clean as I would like to imagine!

Previously, I’ve written a number of posts here on ESI with regard to the subject of repentance. Perhaps I may even be clubbing readers over the head with the topic by now, but in my limited experience, it seems to me that repentance – true godly sorrow – is the spark that lights the flame of faith and enables us to place out ultimate hope in Jesus. Apart from Him, I really do not know any cure for the illness I see in every human heart. We are all so messed up that even the good things we do are normally done for the wrong reasons, or at least with a healthy dose of self-exaltation hidden in there somewhere.

My wife and I were very uncomfortable with the turns taken in our conversation last night with friends, but praise God that He allowed so much of the awful dreck in both our hearts to be revealed so quickly. Thanks, also, to Him for the speed with which he showed us His love, power, control and heartfelt desire that we trust in Him for our salvation and not our own Spiritual Achievement Resumes. May we all seek to be discomfited every now and then for His glory and the service of others. I’ve lost all interest in outward repentance or looking good for others.

Or at least I think I have (Jeremiah 17:9). If that’s not the case, and He has yet another uncomfortable experience in mind to help me become more like Christ, well, then…“Praise God.”

Previous ESI Posts on Repentance:

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