I mess up — more than I like to admit, far more than I wish I did. A truth that seemed permanently imprinted on my heart and mind can, seemingly in an instant, be forgotten. When it is forgotten, I think and act in ways I shouldn’t.
I was reminded of this just last Sunday. The tears flowed through a sermon. The beauty of the truths spoken touched my heart deeply. But the sermon also convicted me. Convinced me that I wasn’t believing God. For Scripture says, “See to it that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).
Conviction is an interesting thing. The word sounds harsh to me. Criminals are convicted. They are convicted of crimes and sentenced to a punishment. Conviction in Scripture isn’t like that. Conviction means to convince. When God’s Spirit convicts us, He comes to convince us of truth, to show us what He says, and to reveal what we’ve been believing instead. This is a priceless gift.
Instead of punishing us, He leads us to confess where we’ve gone astray and to repent of it, so that He can set us free from it. When we do, the most amazing thing happens:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
It’s beautiful! It’s amazing! Instead of punishing us, God pardons us. He reminds us that Jesus already paid the penalty for us. Imagine standing before a judge confessing a crime you’d committed. Then, not only does he release you from the penalty, but frees you from the other crimes you’d committed as well.
That’s the gift of repentance. That’s the grace — the unmerited favor — of God available to us every single day. And while repentance may seem unpleasant, its results are powerful. Through repentance God gives you a change of mind. He gives a change of mind that results in a change of direction: a change in how we think, feel and act. That’s what we’re in need of, for it’s wrong thinking that leads to sin.
Repentance launches God’s amazing work of transformation:
“Be transformed (changed) by the entire renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and new attitude]” (Romans 12:2).
Repentance is part of our role in this walk of saving faith. Jesus’ ministry focused on one message:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17).
The kingdom Jesus spoke of was His indwelling kingdom. The kingdom by which all men could be saved. Our salvation is ongoing — once and for all from the penalty of sin, but daily from the power of sin. This is why we’re commanded to:
“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
We work out our salvation with fear and trembling by knowing and obeying the words of God. The Amplified Version gives a great explanation: “…with self distrust, serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ.” We couple this with being quick to repent when we go our own way.
When your heart is heavy, when you’re anxious, when you’re mad, sad and sometimes even when you’re glad — ask God to search your heart. Heed the words of King David who found tremendous freedom through the grace of repentance:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Practice Way #36 of 52 Ways to Glorify God:
Embrace the grace of repentance.
Seize it, revisit it, be sensitive to the convincing voice of the Holy Spirit concerning it. Be set free by it!