I’ve been thinking a lot about repentance these days. I question the seasons I encounter as my life changes. Sometimes my repentance comes daily, other times the weeks go by so fast I find myself in the pew again on Sunday morning beginning our corporate time of worship, “Okay, Lord, seven days just flew by!”
Before I graduated from Seminary I took a class that required me to do a prayer retreat for eight hours in one day. It was a long time to commit to praying and connecting with the Lord. I knew I needed a plan before I began, or I would run out of things to say; I needed to be guided. I made a playlist the night before of various songs and hymns I enjoy. I got up the following morning and sat on the couch with my journal and listened to each song play through. While they played I wrote down the one line that I needed to hear the most. At the end of the time I had 18 phrases that all reminded me of a specific area of God’s character. It was a sweet time to reflect on the Lord and his faithfulness and it set the tone for my day beautifully.
Next I wanted to journal through the four areas of prayer evangelicals like to put in acronym: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication (ACTS). After spending time adoring God, praising him for his nature and who he is, I moved to confession. Now, if you’re like me, the time of confession is too short during the Sunday worship service. I am barely able to wrap my mind around my sins that morning, let alone the day before, in the seemingly 30 seconds of time I’m given. Some of you might be saying, “Well, the time you’re given at church is not for full confession of every sin that week… as believers that should be a part of our every day walk with the Lord.” And I’ll agree with you, but nonetheless it is too short and here’s why.
During my prayer retreat I began to confess my sin and ask the Lord to reveal the darker parts of my heart I haven’t given much time to lately. Sometimes I think the enemy likes to give us a habitual sin craving, not so we find ourselves weak and overcome all the time, but because we are more aware of that, so aware of it that we barely give ourselves the time to see the other parts of our hearts that need to be convicted and refreshed as well. A habitual sin is often a habitual distraction from the areas that need grace – but that’s a whole other blog post. In my time of confessing I noticed that I was doing just that – confessing I have wronged others and wronged my Lord. But I wasn’t repenting; I wasn’t turning from my sin – I was just acknowledging it, as if I was in a hurry and I saw my friend walking by me on the street, “Oh, hi Joan!” I never “turned” to greet her, I just noticed that she was there and didn’t give time to her. That 30 seconds might give us time to confess a sin, maybe two, but it doesn’t give us time to wrap our minds around how we will be repenting of (turning from) those sins when we walk out of the building.
As I realized my need to repent from my sin, I asked myself, “To what am I turning?” I am turning from my sin to something good and to someone good. When I say “I’m sorry for doubting your faithfulness to me and my jealousness of how you provide differently for others around me…” that’s confession. Repentance goes a step further to say, “I’m sorry for doubting your faithfulness to me and my jealousness of how you provide differently for others around me. I now turn to you, the giver of all good gifts, my provider and the one who sustains my every breath. I turn from being jealous to being thankful for what you give me and give thanks for how you provide for those in my midst.” Repentance changed my heart and my attitude; it afforded me the ability to see my sin and to put aright my heart, giving me joy. It restored me! Maybe we should change the acronyms to ARTS – it may not be as catchy as having a book of the Bible to remember it by, but it is far more biblical.
When my confession moved me to repentance I noticed a connection between repentance and the era of restoration. This may seem off topic, but please bear with me.
Sometimes when people explain the plan of God they talk about it using another four-letter acronym, Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration (CFRR). In brief, creation is the era of time before sin entered the picture. The fall is a one-time event but also the period of time before the redemption of Jesus Christ came. When Jesus came to redeem the earth and his people he promised a final era, the restoration.
The redemption was an amazing event and we are living in the outflow of all that it brings. However, there is still death, sin, and hurt as we wait in the tension for the consummation of his kingdom, the restoration of all things. Can you imagine the day when everything will be made right? When we will be restored to what we were meant for? I want to suggest that when we repent (and not just confess) we are given glimpses of that final restoration.
When Jesus came he redeemed us – he tore down the dividing wall between God and man and offered full pardon of sin. Because, through the blood of Jesus, we are holy, righteous and redeemed, we have been invited by the LORD to enter into his mission in the world, being agents of grace where ever he calls us. This starts with repentance.
When you are driving down the road and your GPS is telling you in an arrogant British voice to “Turn around when possible” (in other words, “hey, you- you missed the turn you were supposed to take, are you blind?”) it would be one thing to acknowledge that you did in fact miss your turn. But it is quite another to actually turn around and end up in the place you intended – the place you were meaning to go. That turn around you make, that repentance you practice restores you. When we repent and not just confess, we are given over to joy because we are living in the good way that the Lord has for us!
The point of confession and repentance is not to shame us, it is to restore us. Repentance frees us to do good works and doesn’t just take a bad thing away but rather gives us something that brings life. Let it be so in us.