”Wait so let me get this straight, every time you ask for water at a restaurant you pour some lemonade in your cup to go with it? That’s stealing.” I brushed off the question with telling her that I was saving restaurants all over the world lemons but the honesty stung more than I would’ve liked to admit. Okay so you can enter the judgement responses in the email section below but I had always poured lemonade in my water and to me it was the same as sneaking sour patch kids from the dollar tree into the movie theaters. She was right all along whether people viewed this dilemma as a big deal or not, stealing is stealing even if it’s just a tiny bit. I had to own up, say sorry and repent (now when I ask for water I easily put five lemons in my cup which has become a hazard for my health considering that’s twelve seeds floating around your straw).
I feel like repentance is such a strong word for our church culture now these days. We love to talk about God’s mercy and grace but to talk about repenting for our sins? That becomes harsh and almost extreme. I remember going over to my friend’s house when I was around 5 years old playing with our collective toys and seeing his brand new Batman action figure complete with a cloth cape. I couldn’t find one that was going to look like the one he had in a million years so I reasoned in my head that I should long term borrow it. I figured I would give it to him when he retires from his job and gets to be a grandfather. “Hey you remember that limited edition Batman action figure that you had when we were five? You can have it back, thanks for letting me borrow it! Oh and tell your 3 grandkids that the reason the left leg looks beaten up, it’s because a dog chewed on it once.” My mom caught me playing with it walking back home and somehow knew we couldn’t afford such a limited edition action figure. This is when I heard the word repent for the first time.
In the Bible, the word repent means “to change one’s mind.” The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,”- (Acts 3:19)
Repentance is not just an action but rather a position towards God in which we offer our brokenness and selfishness and accept God’s forgiveness.
Why is this so hard? Because of the fall of man our brain naturally runs towards our desires, our plans, our feelings, our way of getting what we want when we want it. To turn around and change our thinking runs against who we are. Thankfully we grow with a beautiful Savior who doesn’t let us settle and doesn’t want us to die in our ways. So what if you’re like me? A sinner who messes up and feels like the Batman action figure is in our hands? How do we go back and what does repentance look like?
Sin needs to be exposed.
Part of making sure we don’t backslide into our old ways is by revealing our true darkness to God and others you can trust. Because we get to be the children of light as Christians it means we have the hard task of shining light in our own lives. We don’t get to be hypocrites or secretive anymore, we now get to right wrongs and follow a pattern of reconciliation in our lives and live unashamed. Nothing becomes achieved by lying or hiding.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
That sin is a bigger deal.
In the same way you would never let a child play with Pokemon cards in the middle of a busy street, (thank God Pokemon is making a comeback am I right?) God also doesn’t want for us to run towards danger. Every time we sin we separate ourselves from God and run towards death. The bible describes our human nature since the fall of man as Iniquity (behavior that’s crooked), transgression (breaking trust), and sin (to fail or miss the goal). When we sin we miss our destination or fail to meet a goal that God has intended for us to achieve. Because the Bible tells us that we were all created in God’s image, sin is a distortion of that image and a way we treat people not in the way that we deserve. In short, sin causes for us to stray towards a path that leads to separation from God and distorts the way God had intended for us to treat His people.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
The lies Satan tells you.
This is where a lot of times I get stuck whenever I repent. The realization that what I’ve done has hurt others I love or the God that loves me, I tend to think of myself as a failure. This is not God’s plan for repentance either. It’s so important to mourn over how devastating sin can be but it’s even more important to not stay there. This is where Satan wants to trap you and keep you: as a failure, reject, and someone who indulges in shame and guilt. Reject these lies and rejoice in forgiveness.
“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.- (John 8:44)
I have not loved God at times with my whole heart, and mind, and strength. I have not loved my neighbors at times as myself. I can go on and on with a detailed list where I continually mess up or miss the mark of what a perfect Christian might look like. I used to think that what God wanted more than anything out of me was to have a sinless life, now I know what he really wants is a repentant heart. Knowing all of my selfishness and imperfections He continues to work with me and meet me where I’m at refining my greedy heart. I think the hardest part I’m learning about sin is that it often doesn’t kill you right away. The major consequences don’t happen as soon as we sin, therefore we start to build habits out of our sins which then turn into part of our being. You and I both don’t want to stay here, God has bigger plans for us. He wants to renew our understanding of this world and have us explore a life filled with salvation, true joy and true love.
Repentance is the way to return home. It’s the opportunity to have our tears truly wiped away and for our guilt and shame to be completely cleansed. God invites us to cheat death and restore our hearts back to His design. This calling as a Christian doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes, in fact often times I realize that because I’m a Christian I am way more aware of just how sinful and selfish I truly am. I hurt people, I do lie, I do steal joy at times from others. Turning around is not easy because it’s the realization that our lives are not as perfect as we might want other people to think.
Don’t brush off the conviction, don’t stuff in a corner of your life, don’t live a life full of secrets and shallowness. Repentance is the way out. The best part about turning around is that you come face to face with a savior who doesn’t want to put you to shame or to expose you for the sinner you are. You hold hands with a God who sets you free and allows for you to see grace, mercy, and unending love. Stop convincing yourself, come clean, and pour the lemonade out of your water.
If I mess up will you push me away or hold me close?
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.
— (2 Corinthians 7:9-11)