Last week I wrote a blog on sexual sin. In that post I highlighted the depth of God’s grace. Grace that meets us even in our deepest sin. For the believer who is struggling with sin (which, by the way, is every believer), it is crucial to understand this aspect of the character of God as a God who seeks out his children even in the midst of their sin, guilt, and shame. It is vital to know that there is no sin too shameful to separate you from the love of God. It is so important to know that even when you feel like the “chief of sinners,” you are not alone and there is hope.
At the same time (and by that I mean while holding on to that understanding of the grace and goodness and mercy of God) we must also actively pursue repentance with every ounce of our being.
It is not enough to receive God’s grace to cover your sin, yet again, without seeking to repent from the sin that is enslaving you.
So what does it meant to repent?
The very definition of repentance means the act of turning. When you turn, you are moving from facing in one direction to facing in another direction.
When God calls us to repent, or to turn, from our sin, He is asking us to turn to something else.
So what do we turn to?
**Hint: it’s an easy answer: JESUS!
Okay okay, so we just turn from our sin and turn to Jesus, right? Sounds easy enough.
Then why do we find ourselves being enslaved by the same sins over and over and over again? Why do we find ourselves sliding back into our sin as soon as we think we’ve achieved victory over it? Why can’t we just take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ once and not have to do it again? (2 Corinthians 10:5)
I would like to submit to you the possibility that maybe we are having such a hard time turning from our sin and turning to Christ because we don’t really understand just how precious Christ is.
Maybe we feel hopeless in our fight against our sin because somewhere in our heart we actually love our sin more than we love Christ?
Let me get a little more direct and possibly step on some toes.
Maybe the reason you keep falling back into sexual sin is because you actually don’t think that Christ is more desirable than your sexual fulfillment?
Maybe the reason your thoughts keep tending to bitterness towards your husband is because you are seeking to even the scorecard or be to served by him rather than seeking to glorify Christ by serving your husband wholeheartedly?
Maybe the reason you are prioritizing work to the detriment of your family is because you value success and recognition more than you value pleasing God by caring for your family?
Maybe the reason you are trapped in body-shaming or insecurity is because you value an attractive physical appearance more than you value an intimate relationship with God?
Maybe the reason you keep reverting back towards thoughts of insecurity towards yourself and judgement towards others is because you desire the approval of man more than the approval of God?
Maybe the reason pride continually sneaks into your ministry is because you desire to be noticed and appreciated by others more than you desire to know and serve God?
I know this sounds harsh. When I go back and read those sentences I cringe a little inside, but only because I recognize so many of these sinful tendencies in my own heart.
So what is at the root of all of these sinful tendencies?
When you really look at them, and I believe, when you really look at any sin you are struggling with, you will see that the root of that sin is an improper prioritizing of something or someone over the place of God in your life.
I believe that the reason that this happens, the reason that we tend towards idolatry (or placing things in importance over God) is because we don’t really understand how magnificent and worthy God is.
We don’t treasure God over our sin because we don’t see God as worth treasuring.
We don’t value God over the tangible things (appreciation, approval, success, recognition, sexual fulfillment) because we think the tangible things will actually satisfy us more.
So we have to bring it back to the basics. We have to reorient our understanding of who God is.
Because only when we have a correct understanding of who God is is repentance possible.
Once we see God as good and worthy and holy and faithful and true and better than anything in this world, the tangible things of this world will start to seem unimportant and dim. Dr. Thomas Chalmers introduced a phrase that I think beautifully describes the act of repentance in his book titled “the expulsive power of a new affection.” When we see God as ultimate, the other affections have no choice but to be expelled from our hearts.
I picture a baby, who for the first few months of his life is sustained by milk and pureed baby food. Every few hours the baby realizes he is hungry and cries out for food. His mother obliges and feeds him and he is satisfied. Fast forward a few years and the baby is now a 15 year old boy. The boy is hungry all. the. time. He eats pasta and chicken and ice cream and pringles and steak. If you offered this 15 year old boy pureed baby food he would laugh in your face. Why would he choose mashed up green beans in a jar when he could have a 6oz cheeseburger? After experiencing the goodness of a filet steak the baby food seems boring and unfulfilling.
As we taste more and more of the beauty and goodness of God, the other things become so clearly subordinate.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17
Friends, the things of this world are so fleeting. They may satisfy for a short moment, but the fulfillment that comes from them is not lasting. It is insufficient and temporary. The only thing that will satisfy you continually and eternally is the goodness of the knowledge of God.
At the end of time, when Christ returns and heaven is brought to earth, the most important thing – the thing that will endure forever and ever – will be the glory and satisfaction that comes from knowing God fully.
Brothers and sisters, if knowing God here on earth does not satisfy us now, we will not be satisfied in heaven, where knowing God and dwelling in intimacy with Him is our chief aim.
I pray that we will see God as beautiful, worthy, holy, and sufficient. I pray that we would look to Jesus when we feel our sin trying to creep back in. I pray that we would treasure Christ over every single thing in this world, even over the good things. And I pray that as we do this, as we look to Christ and see His worth, that the temporal satisfactions of this world would slip away and we would find strength to repent.
Here are some links to blog posts and songs that I hope will expand your view of and love for God: