Recalibration Requirement #1: Repent and Return
“I hold this against you,” Jesus says to the church in Ephesus (Revelation 2). “You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place.” Addressing the Laodiceans’ lukewarmeness, Jesus reminds, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock….”
God longs for the hearts of his children to return to him, but this can only take place through heartfelt repentance. One could argue that the first word in Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom is “Repent.” (See Matthew 4:17.) But what does true repentance look like?
True repentance demands that we turn from living for the kingdom of this world towards God and living for his kingdom. In fact, we run away from this world’s kingdom towards his kingdom. We crave his kingship and lordship in our lives.
True repentance demands that we give more than just mental assent to the fact that we are sinners. Repenting demands that we look into our true sinful state with gut-level honesty, not sugar-coating anything. Without the blood of Jesus to cover our sin, our hearts are wicked and deceitful above all things.
People with colorful pasts tend to do this more easily. Those of us who nearly always choose well and live according to the rules are often blinded to our own sinfulness. Our sinfulness expresses itself through more acceptable behaviors and hidden attitudes (i.e., materialism, addictions to work, hidden bitterness, pride, jealousy, etc.)
So whether my testimony involves a colorful past full of poor choices and blatant sinful behavior or a life lived well according to all the rules, I must come to terms with my true sinfulness, laying every evil thing in me at the feet of Jesus. The extent to which I am able to grasp the significance of God forgiving my sin through Jesus determines the extent to which I am able to love God. As Jesus said, “The one who has been forgiven much loves much. The one who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47). My ability to grasp how much sin Jesus’ death and resurrection has saved me from results in a much deeper love and appreciation for him, and for his sacrifice on my behalf.
Thus, repentance demands more than just saying, “I repent of my sins. Please forgive me.” Repentance demands a rending of our hearts, a laying bare of our souls before the Lord, a cut-us-to-the-core grieving over how deeply we have let God down and fallen short of his glory. Repentance calls for a deeper response than a trite, “Oh God, I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” Heartfelt repentance causes us to grieve over our lukewarmness and the loss of our first love.
With great sorrow and conviction from the Holy Spirit, we don’t just return to the Lord, we run to the Lord. Laying ourselves at his feet, we receive the love, mercy and forgiveness he offers so freely. In response, God separates our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103: 12). Grateful for how he took the penalty of our sins upon himself so that we could stand free from guilt and condemnation, we now express unreserved, heartfelt love and worship to him.
Want this to become a discipleship moment for you? Follow the link below!
Watch for the next article/post on God’s second wish for 2011, Recalibration Requirement #2: Release and Restore.