The Next Steps of Repentance
This Sunday, Pastor Aaron spoke on the importance of repentance in our walk with the Lord. In scripture, our act of turning from our sin and orienting ourselves towards the Lord is the ultimate act of worship. In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul charges us “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship”. As we live new lives with our confident hope for salvation through Jesus, the Lord’s greatest desire for us is that we turn from sin and be transformed to the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18, Romans 12:2).
Being transformed to the likeness of Christ can seem like a lofty subject. There’s no 12 step plan to be like Jesus. There’s no program to turn from sin and resist temptation. Repentance can often be a hard concept to take from an idea and a will, to practical steps and life change. My goal today is to reveal how scripture guides us with two practical steps in regard to turning from our sin and resisting temptation.
CONFESS YOUR SINS…
“And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth” James 5:15-17
Pride makes confession hard. It’s always been hard for me to come to my friends and tell them what I’m struggling with. As someone who’s been called to ministry from a young age, I’ve felt the need to have everything together, and that pride can make it hard to confess my sin to my fellow believers. It’s hard, but it’s practical and important.
Confession is a very practical way we can combat our sin and turn towards Christ. Scripture asks us to both confess our sin to the Lord in prayer (1 John 1:19, Psalm 32:5, Proverbs 28:13) and to confess to one another (James 5:16). When I come to the Lord in prayer, He helps me. When I bring my friends, pastors, and mentors into my struggles they keep me accountable and can provide help based on their own experiences. It’s also freeing to say out loud something that has been hidden. We aren’t meant to carry this burden alone, but are meant to invite the Lord and our fellow believers into our life change through the confession of sin.
PUTTING UP GUARDRAILS
As we learn about our tendencies and temptations, putting up guardrails in our lives can be huge in our process of becoming like Christ. Guardrails aren’t a matter of sin on their own, but when used right they keep us oriented towards Christ and keep us guarded from sin. Guardrails are a biblical concept. I like to categorize them in two ways: proactive guardrails, and reactive guardrails.
A proactive guardrail is seeing the potential for sin, and proactively running from it. Proverbs 22 says that “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it”. A proactive guardrail is seeing the danger and running!
A reactive guardrail is doing something about my sin so I don’t fall into the same pattern again. Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30). Jesus often spoke in parables, so please don’t go cutting off your hand! That’s not the point. Jesus is saying that if a relationship is causing me to sin, I need to reevaluate it; If alcohol is causing me to sin, maybe I need to not drink at all; if Instagram and Facebook are causing me to sin, maybe I need to delete them off my phone; if bringing my phone to bed causes me to ignore my wife, maybe I need to leave it in the kitchen at night; if driving aggressively in the left lane makes me impatient and hostile to other drivers, maybe I need to slow down and stay to the right; if spending too much time with a particular friend causes me to gossip, maybe I need to spend less time around them. Enjoying a glass of wine, scrolling Facebook, and using your phone aren’t sinful on their own. If they become the right hand that causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away!
Everyday I hope I become more and more like Christ. By the Holy Spirit and faithfulness to the word I can be transformed! This transformation is a process, though. It requires practical and conscious steps to combat sin in our lives. I hope you’re left today with a better understanding of repentance and transformation.