Our spiritual life begins when we come to the place where we admit we need help and only God can help us. We have run out of ideas to help ourselves and we have given up on reforming ourselves. In order for salvation to happen, we have to come to God in two ways:
1) In our heart and mind we have to believe and have faith that God is and that He sent His Son to die in our place on the cross. It is evident that His sacrifice was accepted because He was miraculously raised from the dead and ascended to heaven to be seated at Gods right hand and intercede for us.
2) We also have to repent and admit that we have sinned and need forgiveness. 1John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Gods intent is for our Christian lives to be blessed like a well-watered garden, fruitful, beautiful and lush. Instead, many times our lives seem dry, parched and resembling a desert. A desert is a dry lonely place that drains away life. What causes this discrepancy? Surely it is not on Gods part. He desires to bless us. Psalms 68:6 says, God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, only the rebellious dwell in a parched land (also Dt. 11:13-17). How are we rebelling? Why do we sometimes start out with repentant hearts but somewhere along the way we quit repenting and try again to do it all ourselves?
Today we are going to discover why we as believers sometimes find ourselves in a dry place spiritually and how we can move from that dry place back to a place of flourishing and fruitfulness.
I. Why do we often live in a parched, dry land?
1. We Often Have A Wrong View of God
Most people view God as an old and grumpy demanding judge. He holds us in disdain and He disapproves of almost everything about us. We are often sidetracked by the fear of being punished, rather than the hope of being in a close relationship with a God who is full of love and desires to bless us.
Religion often communicates to us that there are a lot of have-tos, musts, shoulds, and you-betters. This kind of thinking misses the whole point that God, by His grace and His work, has done all that needs doing to fully restore and assure relationship between Him and us. He has bent over backwards to provide all we need to succeed and be blessed.
Acts 3:19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;
Romans 2:4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Isaiah 30:18 tells us that God longs to be gracious to you.
2. We Often Have a Negative View of Repentance
Our society views repentance as having your wisdom teeth pulled out or spending the day in the hospital with a hospital gown on with two ties missing and one size too small. The voice we hear is one that is angry and hostile. It is viewed as uncomfortable and humiliating, but something you have to do once in a while. We think of it like being sent to your room by your parents rather than waiting for your grandparents to come and take you to Disneyland. These negative feelings come from the shame and guilt we feel at having failed again. It feels like the main point is to put our sins on display like dirty laundry.
Repentance is not a tool to condemn us for where we have been, but an instrument to get us where God wants us to end up (Dr. Daniel Brown).
The Bible tells us that repentance is always the first step towards a better future with God. Broken marriages, fears, debt, depression, unforgiveness do not have to define our future. Brokenness can be restored. Change is possible. God does not want to rub our face in our sin to make us acknowledge that we have messed up again. He desires us to ask Him to help fix what is broken and to move beyond the stain of our brokenness. When invited, He willingly visits the areas in our lives where things are wrong and where things are out of control.
3. We Think That We Can Fix It
The call to repentance is not a red warning light urging us to fix something before the engine blows up. Instead it is an opportunity to send out a distress call that our boat is taking on water and we desperately need God to come and rescue us. It doesnt mean that we should frantically redouble our efforts to bail faster. We all have real shortcomings and need full restoration, and that is what repentance is for. Shortsighted choices make us get lost in the wilderness. Each bad decision takes us further and further away from where we want to be. Trying to fix it ourselves is like being lost in the wilderness. Instead of collecting wood to make a signal fire to call for help, we strike out on our own following every path we come to hoping that somehow we will get back to where we belong. We think, I got myself into this so I have to get myself out. It is like waiting to get well before we go to the doctor. God doesnt command us to change and then repent. He tells us to repent and then He is able to change us. Repentance is like a flare sent up, signaling we need someone to see how lost we are. God uses this kind of repentance to bring us home.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
II. How can we live a life that resembles a lush garden producing fruit and watered by a spring of living water?
1. Repentance Is Part of the Process of Conversion
When you go to another country you have to convert your American dollars to the currency of the country you are visiting. You take your money to a bank or conversion counter and you give them how much money you want converted. Repentance takes your wrong thoughts, feelings, emotions and actions and exchanges them for righteousness that is found in Christ Jesus. God can only exchange what you give Him.
1Timothy 1:13-15 Even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
We must give God the parts of our life that need converting. Ongoing repentance speeds up the change process that God is working in us.
2. Repentance Brings Forgiveness
Sometimes we will feel like we are hypocrites. How can we repent again for the same thing? We are tempted to stop repenting. We are tired of hearing ourselves, surely God is tired of hearing us as well, but every time we honestly repent we receive forgiveness. Every time we repent we get changed even if it is just a little bit. Lets think again of a person lost in a desert. He continuously heads in the wrong direction. Each time that person pulls out the compass from their pocket, they reorient themselves to the right direction. That reorientation is like repenting. The devil wants you to feel guilty about needing to check the compass so often.
3. Repentance Brings Restoration
Repentance is often translated as restoration in the Old Testament. The point of repentance is to take things back to their original order and condition, as it was when God created the earth and mankind.
Psalms 107:35 He changes a wilderness into a pool of water and a dry land into springs of water.
God wants us to repent because repentance will lead to real change and spiritual development. True repentance gives us hope for the future, because we are placing our lives in His hands.
The Truth About Repentance
Real repentance is realizing that our thinking is backwards. Some how we have believed that our sinning is justified. We feel we have good reasons for why we have done the things that we have. We are bitter because people have been mean to us, they have betrayed us or they have lied to us and they deserve our hatred. We worry and connive because we want things we dont have. We do things we know are wrong because we are hoping it will satisfy us. Somehow we believe that sin will fulfill, empower and satisfy. Instead, sinning steals from us and saps the life out of us. This realization is the starting point. An unrepentant heart says God is wrong. A repentant heart confesses that he/she is wrong.
Learning Gods truth about repentance is like hiking over the rise of a hill and catching glimpse of a valley so beautiful you would gladly spend the rest of your life there.
Now that we have looked at a different perspective on repentance that it is a good, helpful, restorative and reorienting of our direction in Christ, what should be our next steps?
1. I will daily look at Gods compass and re-orient myself to His will.
2. I will confess my sin as soon as I am conscious of it.
3. I will receive Gods forgiveness, understanding that repentance is good, not bad.
4. I will open myself to His direction and let Him teach me how to walk in His obedience so that I can be restored and walk in fruitfulness instead of dryness.
(Some excerpts from The Journey, Early Lessons by Daniel Brown)