Ever time a new year rolls around people end up writing for themselves a new year of hope. They convince themselves that this year will be better than last year. This year I will finally stick to that diet. This year I will finally quit smoking. This year is the year of “me.”
The problem is that by the time February rolls around that “new me” mentality is gone. We slide back into our old ways and we end up stuck in the very ways we desperately wanted out of just a few weeks ago. I know because I have been there. This past year I played that game all year. I said, I needed to get serious. I needed to change. And you know what happened? I was good for a couple of weeks and then I would be back where I was. And sadly, I was much like what Peter warned off. “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire (II Pet. 2:22). I know what I needed to do. I know what I wanted to do. I have traveled the path before, but because I kept slipping back into my old ways I gained significant weight this year. While I am not back to where I started, I am not where I want to be. And as a result I am in worse shape than I have been in a long time. (Not just physically, but spiritually). I have permitted myself to make the mistake of getting trapped in what I know is wrong. I get trapped in what I know hurts me, hurts the church and hurts my family. And no one on this earth, save myself, can get me out of this position.
I know that there is only one thing that can change me. Repentance. The reason why so man fail to accomplish the goals that they have set out to accomplish is that they have dialed to repent. We tend to think of repentance as simply admitting we made a mistake. Admittance of a mistake isn’t even an apology. It sure gives the impression. We might walk up to a person and say, “how I shouldn’t have said that about you.” But that isn’t an apology and that isn’t repentance. (yes repentance demands that we admit the fault, but it doesn’t end there)
Neither is repentance an apology. I am not saying that apologies aren‘t important. However we need to understand that sometimes an apology is not going to help mend fences. For instance. If I were to get drunk and accidentally cause the death of a mother and child, how is an apology going to fix what I did? How as an apology going to keep me from doing something so careless and reckless again?
Then there are those spiritual teachers who think that repentance is just letting God clean up the mess. The “sinner’s prayer” many are called up to offer unto God is a prime example of what I mean. “God, I know that I am a sinner. I know that I deserve the consequences of my sin. However, I am trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I believe that his death and resurrection provided for my forgiveness. I trust in Jesus and Jesus alone as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you Lord, for saving me and forgiving me. Amen!” Did you notice that it simply states that the sinner is hoping that God takes care of everything for him? I am trusting in You. I am not saying that we shouldn’t trust in God. I am not saying that God isn’t the reason why we have forgiveness of sins. But, it seems to me that the prayer is saying, “God I need you to clean of the mess.” It screams of a lack of accountability. Even the website I pulled that prayer off of spoke of future prayers that would be needed to get forgiveness. But, change, ceasing from sin, was not really mentioned.
What does the bible say is repentance? “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 (II Cor. 7:11).” These are the attitudes of a person who no longer wants that action associated with him/her. This is attitude a person who wants to change his/her ways. They want to clear their name. (This doesn’t mean prove that they didn’t do it, but rather prove that they are no longer doing it). The word translated as “punishment” here is about restitution. That is, they did what was needed to make it right with the person that they wronged. (If you stole, you gave back the money, if you hurt a person you do what you can to bring healing).
But, what does this have to do with my New Year’s resolutions? If you really want to overcome your nicotine habit you need zeal, longing, fear, and a clearing of one’s self. Without them, you will fail again. This is what I had to do when I first started losing weight several years ago and it is something that I lost sight of this past year. May God forgive me and give me strength to have real change by having real repentance. May God give me the strength to make real changes in me so that He may be glorified in all that I do.
Grinnell church of Christ
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Change Requires Repentance
Volume 8 Issue 1