Day 5 of the Morning Quiet Time Challenge brings us to the issue of repentance. More heady stuff. Dig-down-deep truth stuff. But until we peel back some layers, it’s all just surface stuff. And if you’ve been feeling stuck in your relationship with God, you’ve just been floating on the surface for some time, I expect. This challenge is about a serious pursuit to revitalizing your relationship with God, so let’s get to it.
If you missed any of the earlier posts, take a few minutes to catch up before continuing:
NOTE: I’m basing this challenge on my friend Bob Sorge’s book “Secrets of the Secret Place,” if you’d like to follow along. I bought this book the first night I met and heard Bob speak, and it was a real blessing at a time I was struggling to get back into a daily morning prayer and Bible-reading time. I highly encourage you to buy your own copy today. I promise it will be one of the best investments you make. (Buy it here now. It’s on sale!)
Time For Some Self-Examination
Scripture warns us eight times to pay attention to ourselves (Ex. 19:12, Duet.4:23 and 11:16, Jer. 17:21, Luke 17:3 and 21:34, Acts 5:35 and 20:28). Two of these were spoken by Jesus Himself!
Pay attention to yourselves! – Luke 17:3 ESV
But take heed to yourselves…. – Luke 21:34 NKJV
Self-examination is rarely a favorite pastime. We are all aware we are full of faults and shortcomings; who wants to dwell on that? But God’s Word is clear that we need to pay attention to who we are, how we act, and what we say. We can’t just throw up our hands in defeat and say, “This is just how I am. I can’t do anything about it at this point.” Oh no, friend! It is never too late to change….even in midlife! 😉
We Want To Be Better
We all know we are flawed human beings, and I think we all want to be better. David said it well:
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV
Note: Reading these verses again, it occurred to me that David refers to “the way”……which is what the first Christians were called: followers of The Way (Acts 19:23).
I believe this desire to be better was instilled in the deepest center of our being by our Creator because He wants to help us do that! But it is our choice to fight our sinful nature….and that begins with self-awareness.
The only way to grow closer to God is to learn repentance. Until we come to terms with the fact that we fail to meet God’s standard, there’s no hope of change. When we spend a little time in our secret place focused on His glory, we cannot help but become aware of how far we are from it! But we don’t have to beat ourselves up over it. Nope….that’s the stuff Jesus’ blood covered. We do, however, need to develop a heart that desires to be more obedient, thus more pleasing in God’s sight. The only way to do that is through repentance.
And just so we’re clear, let’s define repentance.
Repent: to feel remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do; to feel such regret for past conduct as to change one’s mind regarding it; to become a more moral or religious person as a result of remorse or contrition for one’s sins.
When we repent, we aren’t just asking God’s forgiveness and considering that a cover our sins so we can ignore it. No…repentance involves bringing our sin out in the open and examining it with God in our secret place….then intentionally working to change our behavior so we don’t continue to sin that way anymore. It’s a process. (You knew that was coming, didn’t you? 😉 )
It’s Not So Obvious
When we think of repentance, the first things we probably think of are the obvious sins: lying, stealing, hatred, judgment, drunkenness, etc. Yes, it’s a given that we need forgiveness of those sins, but radical repentance that brings real change in our soul concerns deeper issues. The term Bob uses is “iniquities.” Iniquity can be defined as “gross immorality or injustice; wickedness; a grossly immoral act; a sin.”
Iniquities are the things that mar the very fabric of our being: our thoughts, motives, feelings, responses, and desires. They are the tings that bring about sins such as pride (which I believe is the basis for most every other sin), rebellion, unbelief, envy, selfishness, covetousness, and so much more.
But often times, these are the sins we don’t even see in ourselves. Or we don’t really think of them as a bad thing. “The world” certainly doesn’t see anything wrong with some of those things. How can it be bad to be proud? What’s wrong with wanting to do better than your neighbor? But spend a little time alone with God in your secret place, and He will begin to bring these things to the surface and reveal them for what they are: sin.
God’s Refining Fire
I haven’t done a study on it, but I can’t imagine how many times the word “fire” appears in Scripture, be it in regards to God’s punishment or His cleansing. When I think of repentance, I think of it as God’s refining fire at work…..burning away the ugly and unnecessary to reveal the beauty beneath.God's refining fire: Burning away the ugly and unnecessary to reveal the beauty beneath. - Kimberly Sutor Click To Tweet
In Day 1, I gave you a little prayer I whisper when I first enter my secret place. It says, “Forgive me so I can stand in Your Presence clean and holy.” When we get more comfortable in our secret place, we will feel God’s unconditional love for us despite all the sin and ugliness we bring in with us. We will also sense His firm commitment to making us more like His Jesus. We will feel weighted down by our failings, and a fire-y desire to be rid of it will spring up inside us. That’s what the secret place is all about: Bringing us into deeper relationship with God and becoming the woman He created us to be!
Does that bring up a wellspring of hope in your soul the way it does mine? Because of God’s love and grace, we can be better! We can put aside sinful ways and conform to the image of Christ. Not perfectly, for sure; not while we’re in this world, in this flesh. But we can continually improve and work toward the goal of being blameless in His eyes. When we cry out to God for His refining fire to work on us, He answers! He wants better for us, too.
….I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My Name and I will answer them; I will say, “They are My people,” and they will say, “The LORD is our God.” – Zechariah 13:9 NIV c.1974
If you are feeling empty and far from God, you don’t have to stay stuck there! When you’re in your secret place, use that time to ask God to soothe your soul, to help you let go of regret and hopelessness and defeat. Ask Him to bring the deeper things to the surface, then repent of them so He can refine them away! Then choose wisely and be better moving forward and deeper with God. And remember….