We are a divided country today. Righting ourselves begins with the Church. The following excerpt from Restoring the Shattered explains the role of repentance is rebuilding the image of the Church to the world.
Repentance is how we start to restore the image of the Bride [the Church], not in a public relations sense, but in a biblical one. And repentance begins with the faithful.
Why the faithful? Isn’t repentance something
for the unbelieving population to grasp—those we perceive are messing up the
world and dragging our culture into a downward spiral? Yes, it’s something they
need to do to become part of the Bride, part of the picture. But the kind of
repentance that can turn the world around is for us. It’s for his people
already in the church.
I didn’t come to this idea on my own. I’d been
praying for our nation to turn back to God, but in my mind that always involved
something someone else needed to do. I’ll pray. I’ll watch. I’ll work when I
can. I’ll cheer when it happens.
At brunch one day, my longtime friend, Renee,
dropped a brick of truth on my head. “He calls his own people to repentance—my
people … called by my Name.”
That is me.
That is us.
The first two kings of Israel, Saul and David,
are a study of contrasts. Each king had a prophet. Each one sinned. Only David
Saul’s prophet was Samuel. Impatient Saul
carried out a sacrifice, refusing to wait for Samuel who was supposed to perform
it. Afterward, he explained to Samuel that he acted “Because I
saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within
the appointed days, and that the Philistines [the enemy] were assembling at
Saul listed his motivations; maybe they sounded
reasonable to him. Maybe they sounded silly as he listed them aloud for Samuel,
who said, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the
commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded
you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.”[i] Saul stepped out of his
role as king and into the wrong role of priest. But instead of confessing and
repenting, he tried to justify himself.
David had a prophet too. When David committed
adultery, impregnated the woman, and then arranged to have her husband killed
to cover his crime, the prophet Nathan confronted him. Unlike Saul, David did
not give a list of excuses. His response was, “I have sinned against the Lord.”[ii]
Saul and David both offended God. Saul made excuses
and wore a false face before the people. David was transparent before God and
Nathan. That difference set in motion the events that would remove Saul’s line
from the throne of Israel and establish David’s in the line of Christ.
Many churches have turned the volume way down
on the discussion of repentance and are blasting the message of God’s love. But
we won’t find blessing unless we refuse Saul’s methods and adopt David’s.
Our news sources daily spew stories of
atrocities accompanied by many excuses and little repentance. Sometimes we are
aghast at what people try to justify: mass shootings, rape, looting, riots, and
the list goes on.
There is a sense that my rights are sovereign
and yours are nonexistent. Many in the church have bought into that message.
Instead of confessing our sins and maintaining transparent lives, we justify
our sins, deceiving ourselves that they don’t exist or simply don’t matter.
We can’t expect the world to exhibit behavior
we don’t model. When we model repentance, others see David instead of Saul.
Repentance is the first step on a life journey when we determine to follow
Christ, but it’s also a frequent stopping place along the way—a place where we
check our direction and retool our priorities, letting him reshape our attitudes.
Repentance produces changed people.
Repentance produces anointed, effective
Rather than being a negative burden, repentance
is an overtly optimistic act.
God commands us to “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.”[iii] Sin and life’s burdens weigh us down. On top of those burdens, we add the pressure to appear perfect.
Acknowledging our reality and letting others into that reality is uncomfortable, but that is where healing happens. There is no other way for us to “bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” [iv] That’s important, and we often overlook it. Sharing our burdens with one another fulfills the law—not just our prayer requests for that new job or relief of our child’s ear infection—but our burdens, what weighs us down and holds us back. Letting each other know our sins is uncomfortable. But confessing our sins to each other brings healing.
[i] 1 Samuel
[ii] 2 Samuel 12:13.
[iii] James 5:16, emphasis added. The
rest of the verse says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish
much.” Righteousness follows repentance, not the other way around.
[iv] Galatians 6:2,
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