Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How to Repent

Repentance is a life skill.
In the original language of the New Testament, the word literally means, "with new mind."

If you can't change your mind, you die as a human being and become someone hard, rigid and stuck. Who wants to be around someone (for long) who can't change their mind?

Martin Luther, the protagonist of the Reformation wrote in the opening paragraphs of his 95 theses famously nailed to the door at Wittenberg, "Our Lord and Master...willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

And here's how George Whitfield, one of the leaders of the 18th century Spiritual Awakening in both England and America practice repentance (he usually did this each night). He once wrote, “God give me a deep humility, a well-guided zeal, a burning love and a single eye, and then let men or devils do their worst!”

Deep Humilty (vs. Pride)

Have I looked down on anyone? Have I been too stung by criticism? Have I felt snubbed and ignored?

Repent like this: Consider the free grace of Jesus until I sense (a) decreasing disdain, since I am a sinner too, and (b) decreasing pain over criticism, since I should not value human approval over God’s love. In light of his grace, I can let go of the need to keep up a good image—it is too great a burden and is now unnecessary. I reflect on free grace until I experience grateful, restful joy.

Wise courage (vs. anxiety)

Have I avoided people or tasks that I know I should face? Have I been anxious and worried? Have I failed to be circumspect, or have I been rash and impulsive?

Repent like this: Consider the free grace of Jesus until there is (a) no cowardly avoidance of hard things, since Jesus faced evil for me, and (b) no anxious or rash behavior, since Jesus’ death proves that God cares and will watch over me. It takes pride to be anxious, and I recognize I am not wise enough to know how my life should go. I reflect on free grace until I experience calm thoughtfulness and strategic boldness.

Burning love (vs indifference)

Have I spoken or thought unkindly of anyone? Am I justifying myself by caricaturing someone else in my mind? Have I been impatient and irritable? Have I been self-absorbed, indifferent, and inattentive to people?

Repent like this: Consider the free grace of Jesus until there is (a) no coldness or unkindness, as I think of the sacrificial love of Christ for me, (b) no impatience, as I think of his patience with me, and (c) no indifference, as I think of how God is infinitely attentive to me. I reflect on free grace until I show warmth and affection.

Godly motivations (a single eye)

Am I doing what I do for God’s glory and the good of others, or am I being driven by fears, need for approval, love of comfort and ease, need for control, hunger for acclaim and power, or the fear of other people (Luke 12:4–5)? Am I looking at anyone with envy? Am I giving in to even the first motions of lust

or gluttony? Am I spending my time on urgent things rather than important things because of these inordinate desires?

Repent like this: Consider how the free grace of Jesus provides me with what I am looking for in these other things. Pray, “Oh Lord Jesus, make me happy enough in you to avoid sin, and wise enough in you to avoid danger, that I may always do what is right in your sight. In your name I pray, Amen.”


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