How to Repent — Continued... Barry's Video Blog...
Be Sure You Change How
You Have Been Trying
—How Not to Repent!
Change How You Change and Grow
Our theology of how change and growth happens is one of the most underdeveloped areas of understanding in the church today.
For most of us the ways we try to grow involves monitoring how well we keep from doing bad things. We monitor our love for the Lord, how much we are reading the Bible, the quality of our prayer life, the depth of our worship, how much we are sharing our faith—and at times, what can seem like a million other things. These are good things.
But while this approach is common, the improvements that result come slowly and are often very frustrating. It can also make you very tired!
It is not my intention to multiply the behaviors that you to monitor and maintain in your walk with God. I want to help make you free. So, please don’t take what I give you here and simply add it as just another area for you to monitor. Like a tire with a hole in it, you would just have to keep on pump yourself up. That won't work.
I am suggesting that you completely change the way you try to change. What I am suggesting will help you stop doing the the things you don't want to do. It will also help you find greater freedom to do the things you should be doing.
How Not to Repent
One of the first steps is that you are going to have to do is re-train your heart about how you should not try to repent.
The Bible says, "...the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death." (2 Corinthians 7:10).
We should feel sorrow because of sin, but God's will is a repentance that is "without regret."
Biblical repentance is not to improve yourself by making yourself feel "bad" because of what you have done wrong. Even though you may not know how to change by any other means, it must be a repentance without regret.
Making yourself feel bad about what you have done wrong may punish you into a temporary appearance of outward conformity, but it does nothing to help change your behavior long term.
The Bible says, "...the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement...are of no value against fleshly indulgence." (Col. 2:23). Repentance by regret is self-abasement and is of "no value against fleshly indulgence."
Greater severity in your self-condemnation may feel religious, but it is not God's will for you to grow that way. Making yourself feel bad for what you do wrong is "self-made religion" because the pain we feel seems to justify our wrong doing.
But no amount of feeling bad will ever make the payment or justify what you have done wrong. Self-inflicted pain from guilt doesn’t justify you before God because, "God is the one who justifies;" (Rom. 8:33b).
Condemning ourselves after we have done something wrong gives us a false sense of being "good" again. Self-condemnation keeps us bent on earning a sense of right standing before God and prevents us from putting our faith in suffering of Christ and the pain He felt on our behalf.
Self-condemnation gives us a false sense of goodness before God, "for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (James 1:20).
Repent of Closing Yourself Off From God!
Motivating improvement by condemnation makes you want to hide from God—not draw near to Him. It closes you inside.
Jesus told the religious leaders of His day, "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people..." (Matthew 23:13; see also 2 Cor 3:17). When you try to motivate repentance and change by condemnation you are being pharisaical and are shutting yourself—and others—from the freedom necessary for experiencing closeness to God.
Underlying any philosophy of ministry is a belief about how to best help people grow. It is true toward other people—it is also true toward ourselves. The Bible refers to the old covenant of the law as a, "ministry of condemnation" (2 Cor. 3:9). It also says that, "the ministry of condemnation has glory" (2 Cor. 3:9a).
Trying to help ourselves grow by a ministry of condemnation seems religious because it has an appearance of glory. But, in contrast, it also says, "For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it." (2 Cor. 3:10). Paul asks, "how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?" (2 Cor. 3:8).
If you are demand that you repent by self-condemnation you are trying to change in a way that is according to the law and "works of the flesh." In contrast the Bible tells us, "and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses" (Acts 13:39).
If there is only one "rule" I could give you about changing according to grace it would be this: You have to learn to delight to die to a "ministry of condemnation" toward yourself. Directing your heart away from self-condemnation should be ruthless, strongly assertive, and unbending.
Don’t miss these two things. Repentance requires that you retrain your heart to stop trusting self-inflicted guilt and that you start trusting Christ's payment for your sin. Repenting also requires that you retrain your heart about what your heart believes is the best way to correct yourself and do better next time.
Observe your reaction to when you do something wrong. Do you stay away from God? What gives you freedom to draw near to God again? Are you trusting the forgiveness of God because you made yourself feel bad for long enough? You should be trusting the forgiveness of God because of power of the cross and the cleansing of God.
It won't ever be "righteous living" if it is motivated by self-condemnation! Consider it sin to feel any sense of justification or righteousness because of how much pain you feel from self-condemnation. The security you need is not from how well you protect yourself from God. Hate any sense of "righteousness" you feel because of self-inflicted pain from condemnation.
Teach Your Heart
Discipline motivated by fear, self-condemnation, and guilt won’t change you at the levels that are needed. Earthly pursuits are too many to be dealt with by these means.
You have to repent from the heart about how you have been trying to repent.
It isn't enough for you to know in your head that self-condemnation is an ineffective and sinful way to repent. Your heart has to learn a more effective way to correct unwanted behaviors and turn to God.
Use thanks and praise to help your heart hear how good and safe it is to trust the cross of Christ. Listen to what you are thanking God about! React with thanks and praise at the slightest indication of self-condemnation or self-based righteousness. Get your heart to hear that it is far more effective to change by hearing thanks and praise for the truth.
The cross is more powerful than your sin. Thank the Lord with great joy that you don't have to put your faith in the severity of your self-condemnation.
Delight your heart by praise toward God that you don’t have to wait to trust the forgiveness of God until you are "done feeling bad."
Biblical repentance is a more effective way to grow—a way of delight toward God—not of contempt toward yourself. You have to get to the heart of the matter—without self-condemnation. Delight can help you change.
(A special note: If this page spoke to you - a very good companion page to this would be to follow the fast track button below. It will take you to a page that explains the sense many Christians have that something is wrong inside and why you shouldn't hide from this God-given spiritual awareness. You have to learn to accept that something is wrong but that you can still move forward with repentance because God loves and understands you. If you have this awareness you can be sure that God is calling you closer to Himself but that He also wants you to take steps to turn the affections of your heart more fully toward Him. Remember that you can move forward without having to punish yourself into improvement!)
I am praying for the Lord's abundant blessing on your efforts to direct your heart toward Him.
How to Repent — Continued...
(C) Barry Hall 1999
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