2023 Reset: Invite Repentance Back into Your Life
If we were to list “the dirty words of Christianity,” repentance would be near the top of the list. But a lot of that has to do with the fact that we have failed to place it in its proper light. Repentance, in the minds of many, has a safe place in our lives as something non-believers must do to turn to Christ for salvation. Beyond that, its relevance for Christians is often only relegated to those with “major moral failures” or for those who live “blatantly foolish lives.” But is this true? Isn’t repentance for anyone who is struggling with sin?
Here’s a more direct question. Are you struggling with sin? I hope your answer is yes, as we all have 1 John 1:8 in our Bibles: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” And if your answer is yes, then turning from “sticky sins” and toward Christ is for you. Repentance is for you. However, how does it work in the life of a Christian?
In this article, I want to take you to a couple of often overlooked sections of Scripture in Hosea to get some very helpful answers. Afterward, you will have everything you need to have a fresh perspective on repentance, a new appreciation for its benefits, and even cross it off the list of “Christian words we don’t talk about.”
How do you make yourself sensitive to repentance?
In the book of Hosea, we find Israel in a dark place. They had been turning to false gods, useless idols, and pagan lifestyles. God even has Hosea marry a prostitute and go through extreme trials to show Israel their adulterous ways by using this prophet’s life as an object lesson. Israel had been doing all they could to invite the discipline of God upon them, but in chapter 6, we find a disheartening response when things begin to go bad for them.
“Come let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, and He will heal us; He has wounded us, and He will bind up our wounds. He will revive us after two days, and on the third day, He will raise us up so we can live in His presence. Let us strive to know the Lord. His appearance is as sure as the dawn. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring showers that water the land.” Hosea 6:1-3
Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Things like “returning to the Lord” and “striving to know the Lord” all seem good. But here’s what’s missing: there is no mention of sin.
They had committed some egregious acts against God, but in response, their expectation was that God would just be for them anyway. Not one time did they acknowledge the hideous nature of sin or their guilt in committing these atrocities. And in all honesty, we as Christians today can easily fall into this trap as well. In the midst of struggling with sin, we just continue our regular routines. We have our quiet times, we go to church, and well, we return to the Lord so to speak without ever mentioning our sin.
So, how can we avoid this mistake? Well, fortunately, Hosea is not done teaching us about this lesson. Let’s looks at chapter 14 of Hosea.
“Forgive all our iniquity and accept what is good, so that we may repay you with praise from our lips. Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses, and we will no longer proclaim, ‘our gods!’ to the work of our hands. Hosea 14:2b-3a
This response looks very different, and in fact, there are three things that stand out that will help us avoid the trap of neglecting repentance in our lives.
Have an awareness of sin
The first thing we see that’s different than the faux repentance of chapter 6 is an awareness of sin. They are no longer simply saying “let us return to God,” but now are coming before Him with contrite hears. Their first thought is focused on their iniquity before God. They are aware of their failings and coming to God in humility and seeking His forgiveness so that they may praise Him openly and without hypocrisy.
We must follow this same pattern. We need to seek God continually and ask Him to give us an awareness of any sin that is lurking within us along with a desire to hate it as much as He does. But we don’t stop there.
Name specific sins
The Israelites don’t just admit they are sinners – they get specific in at least two clear confessions and acts of repentance.
“Assyria will not save us” they say in Hosea 14:3. They had been relying on the military protection of Assyria instead of trusting God and following His ordinances. Today, this is repenting specifically of relying upon someone or something else other than God. Especially, when relying on him/her/them/it results in a departure from obeying God.
Israel goes on to say, “…we will no longer proclaim, ‘our gods!’ to the work of our hands.” They were basking in the idols they had created and were treating as gods – and now, they saw the specific need to repent from that. Today, this would be equivalent to accomplishing something “in your own strength” and then giving the results so much attention and praise that it becomes an idol in your life.
Appeal to the grace of God
It’s hard to admit that “I am often guilty of sin.” It can be harder to admit “I am guilty of this specific sin right now and need to repent.” But perhaps hardest of all is to appeal solely to the grace of God for forgiveness. This means we have the understanding that there is nothing in us to make us better. We will sin again. And once again, we must return to God in repentance in full acknowledgement that we have no ability to commend ourselves before God. We don’t say, “God forgive me of this sin, but keep in mind all the amazing things I’ve done for you lately.” That’s simply not genuine repentance.
Understand the benefits
The benefits of making this process a routine part of your life are myriad. Your pride (the root of all sin) will struggle to find footing. You will be constantly reminded of your reliance upon God for all things. You will also have more sensitivity to the direction of the Holy Spirit than ever. Among many other things, you will have an increased sense of His direction for decisions, discussions, actions, and even for opportunities to share the gospel so that you may glorify God all the more! Who doesn’t want that?
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