You know what’s been on my mind a lot? Repentance. Honestly, I feel like John the Baptist every time I talk to my friends because all I talk about is this sermon by Pastor David Choi (not the Youtuber), from the Church of the Beloved. If you have an hour to spare, take the time to listen to it. But if not, here's a tiny, tiny gist of it.
Btw, shoutouts to Katie Chiou for trusting me to write an entry for her devotional, "Little Fish, Big Pond." And shoutouts to Aaron Fan for letting me listen to the sermon that inspired this entire post. Thanks guys!
Lately, I’ve been so drawn and in love with the beauty of repentance because I’ve never really thought about it or understood it until now. Growing up in church, I’ve always heard the term, “Repent, for the Kingdom is near!” and that either just went in one ear and out the other or whenever I thought about it for a little bit I would get scared because my struggle with sin is a cycle. Additionally, I was taught that sin is bad and sin is complete separation from God. So I just kept asking myself, "Wow, if I sin this much, then how could God ever love me?" But I was asking myself the completely wrong question.
These past few months, God has been revealing to me a lot about His character. Whenever He calls us to obey, to be disciplined, to delight in Him, to confront, to rebuke, to become accountable, etc., He doesn't come from a place of hatred nor contempt. He comes completely from a place of love and kindness, and the same applies with repentance.
HERE ARE 3 things to note:
1. Recognize your sins.
The sermon linked to this blog talks about the two ways we substitute repentance with: resolve and regret.
“Dear Lord, I promise not to smoke anymore. I know I can do better. I know I’m strong enough to quit.”
“Father God, this is the last time I’m gonna talk back to my parents when they try to discipline me. I swear.”
Choi says, “The Resolve category overestimates our righteousness.” Most times, we forget the weakness of our flesh and we forget that we are naturally sinful creatures. Matt. 6:41 says, "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." We put so much pride into thinking that we can overcome sin by ourselves, to the point where we don't even think twice about laying our temptations and struggles down before the Lord and asking Him for His strength and His guidance.
“God, I’m so sorry that I illegally downloaded Final Cut Pro X on my Macbook. I feel so bad. Forgive me.”
“Hey God, I’ve been struggling with pornography lately and I’m sorry that I keep looking at it. All it does is make me feel dirty afterwards. I feel so guilty and I don't know how to live with myself.”
Here, Choi says, “The Regret category underestimates the depth of our sin.” Of course we default to regret when we know we’re sinning-- that’s part of conviction. But more than that, do we think about what sin did/does to us? In Romans 3:20, Paul says, "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin." When we know to do what is good and still choose to do the opposite, we are chipping away bits and pieces of our relationship with God. To add on to that, 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” What more does it mean when we ask for "forgiveness," not truly asking for forgiveness, but actually asking to relieve this deep-seated guilt inside our own hearts so as to make ourselves feel okay for a little bit?
Do we understand that life in sin is a life away from perfection and love? Do we think about the fact that the Son of God had to come down to Earth to suffer and die on the Cross just to save us from ourselves? How often are we reminded of the Cross that paid for eternity? Choi asks, “How deep does your sinful heart go?” and I ask myself the same question.
2. Understand what true repentance means.
Whenever I heard the word, “repentance,” all my guilt and shame came raining down on me like a hurricane, knowing full well the depravity of my sin. That word had such a negative connotation ingrained in my brain that I never wanted to spend time in it. I thought it was too much work to repent. I mean, what’s the point of repenting when I’m gonna keep sinning anyway because it’s in my nature? Not only that but after "repenting" and then committing that same sin, I’m guaranteed to feel guilty about it. But honestly, how selfish is that mindset? The subject in those two sentences are about me; but shouldn’t it be about the truth that our Father is kind enough to forgive and His promise that He keeps no record of wrong (Isaiah 43:25)?
So, I guess what I’m trying to get across is that in order to live out (tru) repentance, we must understand that it doesn’t stem out of our faults. It doesn’t stem from an underestimation of sin nor the overestimation of our righteousness. We are called to come to repentance because we understand how sinful we are, yet despite that sinfulness God is gracious and merciful to forgive and save.
3. Remember God’s kindness.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells of the Parable of the Lost Sheep. He depicts a picture of a shepherd leaving 99% of his flock to search for the 1% missing. Once the shepherd found the lost sheep, he didn't punish it for turning and wandering away. Instead, he delighted in their reunion so much so that he had to share his joy with his neighbors and friends. I think the same picture can be compared to us when we repent. God compassionately looks for us, the 1%, when we feel like we are the most stuck, alone, and unworthy. More times than I would like to admit, I look at God as someone who will punish me whenever I do wrong. Because of this mindset, I have trouble delighting in the presence of the Father. How can He love someone so weak to fall into the littlest temptations? But over and over, God reminds me that even 1 out of 100 is worthy of pursuit.
I thank God everyday that He’s introduced me to a place of understanding His kindness. I know that I'm only scratching the surface, but spending time in the knowledge that God desires for us to be free has set me free. I find myself thinking less and less of my shortcomings and thinking instead of the moments when God comes and meets me where I am. Yes, we are indeed broken, weak, vulnerable, and sinful people, but God doesn’t delight in our suffering. He longs for us to come to a place of freedom free from shackles of fear, guilt, and shame. He promises a place of healing and grace through repentance where our sins don’t count against us and where we don’t have to keep trying to live life by ourselves, barely even living. We’re not meant to live a life feeling bound by the depravity of sin. Instead, we’re promised a life overflowing with kindness, grace, forgiveness, joy, peace, love, salvation, and so much more. Romans 2:4b says, "God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance."
Starting today and days from now, I'm challenging you to view repentance through the scope of God's kindness. See the freedom that is promised to you so that you can live freely.