Meet my beauty of a sister-in-law, Sara. Pull up a seat and take a peek into her heart. You'll be captivated by her willingness to engage the hard places with honesty, mingled together with hope in the person of Jesus. I pray you'll receive ministry from the Lord through her faithfulness to write about the beauty that is repentance.
If you’re engaging in the season of Lent, you may have had quite a few ups and downs by now. I want to share about some things I am learning through it. A few months ago, I began to think about lent because of my sister/friend who felt led to promote this time.
Meditating on some of the traditional Lenten scriptures was equally captivating and convicting… “Return to me with your whole heart” (Joel 2:12).
Confessing a heart rather divided before the Lord in loves and priorities, I was feeling desperation for renewal – a reset. I felt compelled to participate in this season of shifting my focus, finding less hope in myself and my comforts, and growing in fellowship with the Lord and love for the person of Christ.
SO as I was amped about the idea of lent, I began to consider what I would give up and/or take on. The list of things that I look to for life/security/comfort/worth apart from the Lord is… well…overwhelming.
While I had expectations (and still have in the midst of the Lenten season!) for what God might do, He has been quick to use my participation to reveal how much I hope in and rely on myself instead of Jesus.
I noticed I am prone to two responses to conviction: 1) talking myself out of the gravity of my sin or 2) relying on my own strength and will power to rid myself of sin (sounds pretty ridiculous when I actually type it out).
Instead of praying through these things and confessing them to God, my first response is to create rules on rules that would keep my heart pure. “Wait – lent should be all year! If I give up everything that I cling to more than Christ and am more committed to/strategic about knowing the Word… I will be SET – free, solid, trusting, etc. I will get myself right with God.” When I get tired of sulking after being confronted with the reality that I don’t have the strength on my own, I try to convince myself my sin isn’t so bad: “Oh you only do this or that because of the circumstances, which is totally justified.” You see the pattern here. But there’s another Way. The only way to respond to sin and not have despair is (repentance) through Jesus.
Jesus said “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 8). When we are convicted of sin, the light of life has shone into the darkness in our hearts. Many times when we see we sin as exposed by the Light (grace), we pridefully take it from there. We want to make rules that keep us from messing up in the same way. But that’s law, hoping in our own strength. Galatians 3:10 says that those who rely on works of the law are cursed… but the righteous live by faith. The law of the Spirit of life has set us free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death… God condemned sin in the flesh by sending his son in our likeness (Romans 8)…
We do not have to condemn ourselves, fix ourselves, or lie to ourselves and pretend like we aren’t sinning. Through repentance we begin to relate with God rightly. We give our hearts back to Him, broken and needy. He is good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon Him.
My prayer is that during lent, when we see our sin, we will learn to neither wallow in despair nor take matters into our own hands, but with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and grace in time of need (see Hebrews 4). My prayer is that more of God’s people would practice true repentance and experience it as an intimate meeting place with the Lord instead of a self-willed resolve to change ourselves apart from Him (often my experience). That we would confess our sin and receive with eagerness His grace and forgiveness which empower us to turn and renew us with hope. “In repentance and rest you shall be saved, quietness and trust shall be your strength.”
So while you may be overwhelmed by your sin, at all the ways your life is only about you, or how you’re not surrendered to knowing Him and His ways, to loving Him first, be encouraged that it’s His love that endures, His steadfast love endures forever. We live by faith in what Jesus has done and when we offer up our sin-stained hearts, we receive forgiveness, grace and relationship. It’s a glorious exchange! Doesn’t make sense. And as we allow Him to captivate us, He orders our desires properly and enables us to love others – not for our own self-interest but because we know the person who is love.
I want to end with a few words from John 13. Jesus is near the end and He knows it. He has just finished eating with His friends and disciples, rises from the table and goes to wash their feet. Imagine – this is someone they so admire and look up to. They believe He is sent from God - HOLY. And He is going to wash their feet. Peter was not having it – he says,
“You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus responds, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” John 13:8-9
I’m sure there is plenty of cross-referencing theology packed into this scene, but the way I see it now is that feet are dirty. I don’t know anyone who is proud of his/her feet or wants them exposed to and touched by another, especially by someone you have reverence for. But it had to be Jesus, He had to make them clean. So we have to let Him wash us. We have to let our filth be seen by Him and receive complete newness.
And THEN Jesus says we are to do it to one another – wash one another’s feet! It’s the beauty of relationship here on earth, when we let others really see us, they too can “wash” us in truth, remind us where life is found, encourage us in our repentance. It’s like He said in John 15 – we are to love one another as He has loved us, and in keeping His commandments we abide in His love. Father, thank you for relationship! Teach us to live in the light of your grace. Make us sensitive to your Spirit’s conviction, and let us respond not in pride or shame, but let us come to you remembering (and reminding others) that it’s only your Word that washes us clean.