I know this isn’t our new theme, but it seems God isn’t done with the old one yet, at least where I am concerned. During last month’s reflections on repentance, some of the posts mentioned that true repentance means turning around, doing something different, returning to God. It’s not enough to just say “I’m sorry” and then keep behaving in the same way.
At St. Paul’s our leaders have been praying about how we need to repent, individually and corporately. Here’s one thing God has impressed upon my mind: a pastor in India, Pastor Duiggi, and his ministries. We’ve met this man. He actually visited our church, twice I believe, years ago. Since then my husband and I have received periodic emails from him, telling us about the things he is doing and asking for our prayers and support. He runs an orphanage, supports a Women’s Ministry and is now associated with the Lutheran School of Theology in India. Sad to say, I have done nothing.
Why? Well, I could come up with any number of excuses. I’ve been busy with many things (like Martha), things that seemed closer to home and more pressing; he’s not affiliated with our particular Lutheran denomination (the AFLC); our church is small, not wealthy, and truth to tell I’ve been more worried about whether the church can afford to pay its Pastor (my husband) then suggesting we support a mission in India. All of these reasons are wrong and just plain sinful. This is not easy for me to even think, much less say out loud.
So I’m going to repent. I’m going to start talking to our church about Pastor Duiggi, beginning with our Sunday School class. I’m going to model the behavior I’d like to see in others. I’m going to be the change I want to see in the world.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already obtained. Philippians 3:12-16
A book I read recently stated that “getting good” at any complicated task takes about 10,000 hours of practice. Now this author wasn’t speaking about the living the Christian life, but I imagine it still applies. So if you want to “get good” at being a Christian, simply sitting in the pew won’t cut it. At the rate of one hour per week, “getting good” will take approximately 192 years! In case you haven’t noticed, none of us have that long! To really mature as a Christian, we need to put in the hours –hours of prayer, Bible study, service and more.
This is exactly what the Fanning the Flame process is teaching us. As a team, we are learning to be more disciplined in our prayer life; to discover and use our spiritual gifts; to repent of our sins; to remember God’s promises; to study His Word; to fellowship with one another, and so on. Hopefully, as we mature in our faith, we will influence others within the congregation to do the same. We’ll be stronger, better witnesses.
Will we ever achieve complete sanctification? Lutherans don’t think so. However, like Paul, we need to press on and do what is in our power to become worthy followers of the gift we have already been given. Christ died for our sins so that we could be reconciled with God and live with Him in eternity. Is it enough to plunk ourselves down in the sanctuary once a week, sing a few hymns and drop a few dollars in the offering plate? Is this a show of true gratitude, or is it just a pious habit we’ve developed over the years? We can’t stand still in the life of faith, we have to practice. We have to get good.
Yes, we Lutherans believe that we can be sinners (duh, of course) and at the same time saints, as part of Christ’s body the church. This is one of the great mysteries of the faith, and part of our justification through the death of Jesus on the cross. We have been freed from the penalty of our sin. Isn’t this reason enough to repent every day? Shouldn’t we try to live up to the gift we’ve already been given?
“Return, Israel, to the Lord your God.
Your sins have been your downfall!
2 Take words with you
and return to the Lord.”
When we sin, when we mess up and we really know we did . . . we want to do better. Most of us want to “fix” it. And maybe that can be okay if we keep our eyes on God in doing so. Because while work can never save us, wanting to try, to get up and do, or even the action of stopping a behavior because we know it’s wrong-is the beginning (action of) repentance.
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” -James 2:18
In other words he has the desire to do good. To work, share, help, save, obey, because he has faith. Faith brought on by the hearing of God’s word which tells us we need to repent. We need to stop the bad that we do and return to our Father in heaven. Not only for our good but for the good of others.
Return with apologetic words and then words of encouragement, because the law meant to guard us. To keep us from certain death.
Galatians 3:24 “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.”
If we ever wonder why we have a conscience, this would be the reason. It’s our flashing yellow light. When it goes off we have a choice to keep going, or return.
R. C. Sproul was not a Lutheran, but this sounds quite a bit like Martin Luther’s First Thesis, doesn’t it?
I receive morning devotionals every morning from several sources. One is from a pastor that I’ve known for years and he is the one that married my husband and I, and baptized both of our children. I enjoy hearing from him every day.
The thought for today included this:
There is an infinite depth in our Lord that can never be exhausted. The excitement continues as the Lord draws us closer to Himself. Continue to read, think, and pray. There is always more grace, truth, and real excitement in walking day by day with Jesus Christ.
Wow, just wow. This really hit me. We cannot run out of His Grace, we can always receive more. There is no “getting there”, we are always moving closer to our Lord.
As usual with me, when I think of things like this, a song came to mind. Enjoy.
As sinners our natural response to biblical instructions is to say “no”. It is our default position if you will. God tells us how to behave, and we say no. God says that our thoughts are to be about Him and our goal is to be His glory. And we say no. God says we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. And we say no. We must repent of that behavior. We must repent of those thoughts. We must repent of those emotional responses. And we must repent of those times when we say “yes” but live no.
Repentance is a necessary part of the Christian life. When Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the town church in Wittenberg he wrote this, “When our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said ‘Repent’ He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” And true repentance has to be more than simply saying some words on Sunday morning. It must be heartfelt and life changing.
True repentance is a willingness to let God change us in any way He so chooses—no limits and no exceptions. And maybe that’s why we resist so hard. It’s scary, isn’t it? It’s scary to think that God would take me and make me something other than I am when I’m perfectly comfortable this way. Most of you know the difficulties Joan and I have been going through with our home. It is not easy to be constantly moving about from one place to another—sleeping here, eating there. Wondering when we’ll be able to return to our place and get back that sense of normal life. Believe me, we’re so looking forward to that day.
That day will come fairly soon and things Joan and Terry will return to normal. But when you and I repent of our sins, truly and completely, when we let God change us, there will be no going back. There will be a new normal and a new level of comfort. Things which we have long clutched to our chests will no longer be there for us. Instead we will be Kingdom people—which is what we are meant to be. Mark tells us that when Jesus began His earthly ministry He went into Galilee preaching Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. And citizens of the Kingdom are different.
But friends, what a great day that will be for us because we do indeed bear a burden when we sin. We know what our sin is and it weighs us down, even if we don’t admit it to ourselves. But that burden will be lifted when you truly repent and allow God to do as He wills with you. Instead of the yoke of sin we will bear the yoke of Christ, and it is light and easy. Instead of the dimness of our natural vision we will see with a new light, the light of Christ Himself. Instead of the confusion which so often rules our lives, we will have complete clarity, because it is God’s clarity, His gracious giving of His wisdom to the people of His calling.