I must confess that the title of this post is a bit misleading. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to write a blog post and make it a musical, but for the sake of keeping myself free of accusation that I am a liar, I will link to some music that you can listen to while you read. If you are talented, perhaps you can kind of “sing” the words to the post here, and…voila (pronounced “wah-lah”)…you have a musical!
In yesterday’s post, I said that we would be getting to a more practical application of the idea that we should “put off the old self” and “put on the new self.” (Ephesians 4:22, 24). The practical application of this can be summed up in one word – Repentance. Repentance has a very negative connotation to us – I think many of us see it as a constant “saying sorry to” or “asking forgiveness from” God. This is not a Biblical view of what repentance truly is. Today’s lesson, titled The Power of Repentance, looked at what Biblical repentance is, and the part it plays in the breaking of the power of sin in our lives.
Making Truth a Reality
The overall point of yesterday’s lesson was that the starting point becoming free from the power of sin is coming to a realization that my sin is no longer my master. I said that I have to ” embrace the fact that I was personally crucified in Christ, and therefore sin no longer has a hold on me.” This is the starting point to living as a “new creation” in Christ. I insinuated that this revelation was all that was needed to overcome the power of sin, but that may be slightly off-base on my part. While it is true that, once we understand that sin no longer has any power over us, we are free from it’s grasp, there is an important middle step between the revelation of this truth, and making this truth a reality. That middle step is called repentance.
The 3 step process on how truth becomes a reality in your life looks like this:
- Revelation – the enlightening of God’s Word by the Holy Spirit.
- Repentance – the aligning of your thinking and behavior with God’s Word.
- Reality – the empowering by the Holy Spirit to live in line with God’s Word.**
As you can see, without repentance, reality is an unreachable step. Many people (including myself) go to church every Sunday and hear the truth preached to them, then go on with their lives, failing to live in the reality of that truth. What they missed is repentance – aligning their thinking and behavior with the truth that was revealed to them.
In our current context, dealing with the breaking of the power of sin over our lives, repentance “is based on a revelation…that the power of sin was broken at the Cross…and that God requires you to switch allegiance from sin to Him.”** This revelation is what we talked about yesterday (if you haven’t read yesterday’s post…go back and read it now). Without this revelation, the only option we have is to try and break the hold of sin on our own, and self-effort is NOT repentance (nor will it ever work…).
A Change of Orientation
At the end of Romans 11, Paul write a closing hymn of praise to God:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. (v. 33-36, emphasis added)
This ending line – that all things are from Him, through Him, and to Him – is the way God intends us to orient our lives. Unfortunately, we usually see things from a “from ME, through ME, to ME” perspective, but this self-centered orientation is not where we are supposed to point our lives. The first step in repentance is turning from a ME perspective to a GOD perspective. Often, as we’ve mentioned before, we come to a realization that salvation is from God, but we still think it is through me and to me. We still think that self-effort will get us where we need to be, and our motives are still self-centered. Once we move past this, and realize that the power to break free from sin is from God (He provided the way), through God (He provides the power to do it), and to God (it is for His glory), we are finally on the right track – our orientation is God-centered, right where it should be.
What Shall I Do?
In Acts 2, Peter speaks to the Jews and tells them that they have crucified Jesus, whom God has made both “Lord and Christ”, they are “cut to the heart” and respond by saying “what shall we do?” (v. 36-37). This is the natural response to a revelation from the Holy Spirit – to act! But of course, self-effort gets you nowhere – as the lesson put it: “Note that even in this process of repentance and revelation, the direction is from God and not from me. Repentance does not have its roots in self-effort but in response to a revelation that comes from God.”** It is only action prompted by a revelation from God that is proper.
The action we take is outlined in Romans 6:
- “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (v. 11)
- “offer yourselves to God” (v. 13)
The action we take is in our minds – resolving to turn our backs on sin and turn our face toward God (orientation), and in our behavior – actively giving ourselves to God and living for Him. This is what Paul meant when he said “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24). The putting off of the old self is counting yourself dead to sin. The putting on of the new self is counting yourself alive to God and offering yourself to Him.
We’ll get into what exactly we mean by counting ourselves alive to God and offering ourselves to Him later on. But again, for now, let’s bask in the light of this new revelation. If you’re like me, you feel like a load has been lifted off your back – no longer am I required to fix myself. The problem has been taken away – all I have to do is realize it, stand up straight, turn around, and pursue the one who took the burden away.
** Taken from Lesson 8: The Power of Repentance, from The Power of the Gospel, OBC
Note: I considered titling this post Turn Around, and recommending listening to Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler (since they sing “turn around” over and over again), but after watching the music video and being really weirded out by it, I changed my mind.