In last week’s post, We have to die. I shared about a way that I have found helpful to unleash more of the Holy Spirit in my life; surrendering and dying to myself. Not just in theory, but in reality – in the day to day grind.
This week I want to talk about another practice that has accelerated the Holy Spirit’s movement in my life.
Before moving forward, I do recognize that surrender and repentance could be looked at as one in the same. But as they have played out in my life, they have looked really differently. Dying to myself has spoken to areas of my life that aren’t inherently wrong, just not surrendered. Repentance has dealt with the core of my sin. Because of that, I felt compelled to share them as separate practices. Stick with me.
If you know me or have been reading my blogs, you know that I grew up in the church. I had an incredible church experience growing up. My faith was my own from a young age. My heart was bent towards God since I was in 3rd grade. Because of that, I have taken many faith concepts for granted. Repentance is no different.
You see, I had an incredibly strong moral compass. I skipped school one day with my friend in high school and all day she kept saying to me, “you cannot tell your mom you skipped school,” knowing that I was horrible at keeping secrets, especially from my mom. I tried so hard to keep it in, but the minute I walked in the door, I cracked. I told my mom I had skipped school. She snickered a bit under her breath, while trying to hold it in front of my dad.
One time the lunch lady gave me an extra quarter back in change and I returned the quarter and gave her more money than I owed. Who does that?
Because of my sturdy moral compass, I honestly didn’t really feel like I had a need to repent. Jesus died on the cross and forgave my sins. Fact. I was a good person. Fact.
I perhaps didn’t appreciate the need for repentance, but as I have shared before, I have always been quick to talk about my sin. In certain Christian circles, it’s almost as if sin is exalted. I recall sitting in coffee shops with my friends in college. We would be sharing our “struggles,” and it seemed as if the more honest I was, the more sympathetic nods I would receive.
The problem with that was that no matter how much I talked about my sin, I wasn’t changing. And I knew there was more, I wanted something better.
As I began to question how to experience more of the Holy Spirit in my life, I was drawn back to the “historical” concept of repentance. As I continued to research, I was reminded about how important repentance was in the bible.
When we meet John the Baptist he is is declaring in Matthew 3 “….Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Matthew 4:17 tells us “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of God is here.’” It struck me that according to Matthew when Jesus began his public ministry, his first words were “repent”. I think that should cause us to pause and take note. This might be important.
So what does it even mean to repent?
The biblical definition of repentance is “to turn from sin and turn towards God. It is a change in direction.”
Everyone I know that has chosen to give their lives to Jesus would love to do this. I would love to turn my back on sin and turn toward God. That is my life’s goal. But again, like many profound truths, how do we do that in real life? When life is hard. When we are busy. When we feel like God is not near. How do we turn ourselves away from sin and towards God?
So I kept digging, trying to find the answer. The idea of repentance seemed so simple, yet so complicated at the same time. As I continued to dig I felt like Lord impressed upon my heart…
Start with saying I’m sorry.
Even as I type these words, I resist. Those words are often spoken without much meaning or attention. I often find myself saying to Bryan, “Stop saying you’re sorry, just change your behavior “ (we don’t mince words in our house). But as I continued to circle back to those words, I was reminded-sometimes you have to fake until you make it. You have to start somewhere and in this case I have found that it had to start with words.
Confession precedes repentance.
We would all be whole, healthy and free of sin if all it took was to say you are sorry when you sin, but that isn’t enough…is it? It is not the words within themselves that begin to change us, it is what the words start doing our brain, and with that, our heart.
Another disclaimer, I am not a brain researcher and what I am about to share is over simplified.
Let’s talk science, neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to restructure itself after training and practice. New thinking changes brain structure and function. With each repetition of a thought, emotion or word, we reinforce this new pathway. It’s like a hiking path. The first time that we try blaze a new path, it is full of weeds and grass. It’s hard to navigate. Then the next time we try it, it’s not quite as bad. There are some weeds and brush to push aside, but the path is more clear and easy to navigate. Before we know, the path is clear and easy to walk on.
I love the idea that we have the power to literally change our brains. But what I find more fascinating is that Jesus was talking about it way before science caught on. Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Jesus wouldn’t tell us to do something unless it was possible.
So let’s start with words. We have to go to the Lord and say we are sorry. And then we have to do it again and again and again. And don’t just say the words, when you do it, ask the Lord to change your heart. Ask the Lord to bring you to a place where you hate the sin and how it keeps you from walking in freedom. And then someday before you know it, they won’t just be words anymore. It won’t just be the words spoken aloud, your heart will begin to change. You will hate the sin in your heart as much as you do with your words.
The sin in your life will be massaged away, you will become less and He will become more. And the Spirit of the Lord will be unleashed in your life.
This week I want us to try something together. If you find yourself frustrated, angry, judgmental-whatever it is. I want you to stop, acknowledge you are wrong, say you are sorry and make amends. And then take it a step further. After you apologize, I want you to physically turn around and take a few steps in a different direction. See how you feel. And keep doing it, I think it will make a difference.
Because I believe that one day you will turn around and see a clear path ahead.
Lets forge some new paths,