Over the past few days the Spirit has graciously led me to see that it all begins with “repentance.” The theme starts early in scripture, is emphasized in Psalms and the Prophets, and the New Testament is loaded with that word – repentance.
John the Baptist screamed it and Jesus’ first mission words recorded included it: Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven draws near. Can we deny in any way that repentance is the key to the door of the Christian way? I think not.
In its most simple yet accurate definition, repentance is saying yes to Christ. The official definition is something like “to turn, or change direction” and it specifically implies “a change of the mind.” These are basic truths no doubt, but what is it that motivates and causes this process to begin? One thing:
Saying yes to Christ and really meaning it.
When we truly repent, we involve ourselves in the process of “consecration.” We consecrate our minds, hearts, wills, and bodies to God. From what I can gather, true repentance, the kind of repentance that makes a difference in a persons life – the kind of repentance that results in conversion and leads to transformation – is an event that is initiated by God and completed by us. We come to understand what is being offered, what is required, and we either accept the proposal or we reject it.
Yet things are rarely that cut and dry. Like most things involving humans, we tend to cloud even the most crystal clear situations and complicate things needlessly.
As I look at my own history with the faith, coupled with what I see going on in the Body of Christ as a whole, and what I see is something that is a bit puzzling and even more disturbing. Based on my own behavior and that of many others, it would seem that either we never really understood what repentance was all about and made an ill-informed decision, or, worse still, maybe we never really repented.
I can only answer this issue where I am concerned. I think, after honestly looking at my own history with Christianity, that I never truly repented. I never really intended to make the “complete turn” that true repentance calls for. It is hard for me to acknowledge this, but the facts lay bare the reality and truth of what I am saying. My initial repentance was not much more than skin deep and it never, ever, reached the level of my deeper mind and certainly never penetrated my heart. The result was that after a few years of youthful exuberance and activity, things leveled off into a lukewarm routine of going through the motions.
By the grace of God I finally woke up to all of this, but I discovered that it was so easy to repeat the same mistake. When ever I needed to truly repent, I would often think that I had when in actuality, all I had accomplished was to push a particular issue to the back burner for a time, rather than really deal with it.
I think I am not alone in this tendency toward “pseudo-repentance.”
I have also come to believe that part of the problem in all of this is the fact that the church does a generally poor job of letting believers know what repentance is really all about. We become so concerned about getting people “saved” or getting them through the church doors and into a pew that we fail to let new believers in on a central fact of the faith. Although God’s grace is freely given, much is required if you are to become a true disciple.
New and/or prospective converts need to hear the fundamental truth that Christianity is not about getting you into heaven; its about getting heaven into you.
Peter Vardy wrote a great little book entitled, And if it’s True? I am not sure it is even in print anymore. I found my copy of it years ago at a used book store, yet I can safely say it was a book that literally stopped my in my tracks. Vardy speaks clearly about what one has to consider when it comes to taking on this thing called Christianity and coming under the mastership of this being called Jesus Christ. Getting right to the meat of the matter, Vardy says:
Christianity calls each of us to believe and trust in God, a belief and trust based on love. This is not simply a matter of intellectual assent….It is a matter of the truth of Christianity becoming ‘true for you’, as an individual. Only when Christianity becomes true for you so that you are willing to stake your whole life on it, does it really become true in your own case.
Belief that God exists does not come near to what Christianity is about. It is only when the factual truth of Christianity becomes ‘true for us’ so that it becomes the center of our lives around which our whole existence revolves that we, as individuals, can see what Christianity involves….it means each of us coming to understand what it is for Christianity to become ‘true for me’, what Christianity is going to involve when it is taken on board and lived. Once we see and understand this, we then each of us have to decide whether or not we wish to try to live it – but that is our free choice. Until we have understood what is involved, however, we cannot even make the decision.
Christianity requires passion and total commitment – a commitment to a lived love relationship with God. The relationship has practical consequences and these can, to an extent, be foreseen.
‘What does it mean to be a Christian?’ ….The important way of looking at this question, however, is to see it as asking each of us, ‘What does it mean for me to be a Christian?’ This is much, much more uncomfortable and challenging. There is no single right answer – each of us needs to think the answer through for ourselves.
If you find that your walk of faith has not been what you feel it should be, then I would suggest that you spend a bit of time really studying what Vardy has said in this short passage. You may even try to get your hands on a copy of the book as I am sure it can be found somewhere. But be prepared to take an honest, hard appraisal of your walk of faith and also be prepared to practice a bit of brutal honesty with yourself. It may not be the most pleasant exercise you have ever undertaken, but I can say with assurance, for many of you, it will be far from a waste of time.
In fact, it may be life changing in ways you would have never imagined.
© L.D. Turner 2009/All Rights Reserved