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Repentance 27th August, 2008

Posted by Scotty in Heart, Musings, Spirituality.

I love how the Holy Spirit works in a life, and especially the events He uses to teach profound lessons.

On Friday I was at CityFest and it was packed.  It was so difficult to move from one end of the park to the other because the sidewalks were lined with people stopping to listen to the messages.  As a group of us tried to head from the top to the bottom of the park we got stuck in a traffic jam of people.  It took us 20 minutes to get less than halfway to our destination at which point we decided to give up and turn back.

In the midst of that crowd God had some profound words planned for me.  We were walking along in single file getting nowhere while next to us was a woman pushing a pram in which was a beautiful little kid.  She was doing her best to make her way through the crowd as people pushed her out the way and blocked the pram.  Behind her was a very unhelpful younger guy who looked like a typical college bum.  Complete with cigarette hanging from his lip.  Every time he took a lungful of smoke he would casually and thoughlessly blow it out all over the woman and her kid.  On a couple of occasions and amidst coughs the woman turned to him and asked him (politely) if he could stop blowing smoke on her and her baby, especially in the middle of a busy crowd where the air was already pollute with a million people’s BO!

It had no effect and he went right on smoking.  She turned round again and more assertively asked him to stop what he was doing.  He said “sorry” obviously not meaning it and just trying to placate her.  I was completely taken by her response.

I don’t want you to say your sorry, I want you to do better

Those were not words expected to hear and immediately they sent my mind racing.  How many times have I had someone talk to me about a struggle in their life where they have asked for forgiveness and yet been unable to break free of the hold of that sin.  How many times have I gone to God with my “sorry” fully regretting my sin and yet never taking the steps to “do better”.

This woman, who may or may not know the Lord, in this sentence summed up the nature of repentance hitting on something Christian’s often do wrong in the battle against the sinful nature.  It is not about going to God to say “sorry” but about “doing better”.  This does not negate the need to ask God for forgiveness… both steps are necessary in repentance.  The very definition of repentance is to turn 180°.  If we go to God and say sorry with no intention of changing our actions our words are empty… and God knows our hearts!

One of the difficulties with breaking free of sin is discussed in Authentic Faith:

Merely stopping the sin does nothing to address the yearning that led to the sin in the first place, which is why we must pass through the desert to embrace the virtue of detachment (p69, Authentic Faith)

When we acknowledge sin in our lives we have to first ask for forgiveness, then we “do better” by turning 180° on our sin (something we are only empowered to do because of the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives!!!)  Contrary to our instant-fix mindset this isn’t the end.  Our body is used to the sin.  It has formed a bad habit as a result of our sinful yearning.  Just like a drug-addict going cold turkey we have to experience the struggle with the detachment that comes with giving up something our body and mind have come to rely on.  Although there are occasions when God grants someone instant victory, most often victory comes in small steps.  Moment by moment we have to feel the urge to walk in sin and resist it, teaching our body that we can do without, and replacing that need with a healthy alternative.  We have to go cold-turkey with our sin… praise be to God that His Spirit enables us to do this!

Where are you with that festering sin?  Are you fighting the fight or are you calling out to God with empty words?  Walking through the desert of detachment is hard, but by God’s grace you can get through it, being strengthened in your ability to resist sin and rejoicing in the freedom that comes through Christ.

Don’t just say you’re sorry, do better!



1. carley wecks - 27th August, 2008

Thanks, Scotty. Great illustration of true repentance. May repentance in our lives make us more like Him.

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