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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Man! That lid is on there tight!

Repent (metanoeo):  To change one's mind and subsequently one's actions. The idea of repentance in scripture is not always fully understood, but when Peter preached to the Jews gathered in Jerusalem after Jesus was taken up into heaven following his death, burial, and resurrection, he told them to change their hearts and lives.  The idea of repentance is that of change.  Change is something we all kind of struggle with, ranging from all out determination to not let go of the past to an eager desire to be rid of what weighs us down, but without the wherewithal to actually let go.  The biggest thing we need to recognize about the biblical definition of repentance is this idea of a changed mind.  All change in life begins at the point of our thinking - without a change of mind, we will eventually return to the same conclusions and patterns of action we once pursued.

People who live following their sinful selves think only about what they want. But those who live following the Spirit are thinking about what the Spirit wants them to do. If your thinking is controlled by your sinful self, there is spiritual death. But if your thinking is controlled by the Spirit, there is life and peace. Why is this true? Because anyone whose thinking is controlled by their sinful self is against God. They refuse to obey God’s law. And really they are not able to obey it. Those who are ruled by their sinful selves cannot please God.  (Romans 8:5-8 ERV)

If we haven't figured this one out yet, then maybe we better really spend some time understanding why it is so important for us to have this "change of mind" as it applies to finally being "free" of whatever it is which has been holding us captive.  If we begin to understand what Paul was telling us in the passage above, we will see some important points:

1. When we are determined to do things our way, within the confines of what we can manage to accomplish, self-determined in our course, we are living apart from Christ.  At the point we invite the Spirit of God into our lives, we begin to see a change in our thinking.  If all action begins with thought, and try as we might to argue differently this is exactly where all action begins, then it is not unreasonable to recognize a change in thinking will likely result in a change in action.  Most of us don't change our thinking overnight - this is why we sometimes vacillate a while on decisions - it takes a while for our "emotions" to match our thoughts and then to get our actions following that thought pattern. 

2. Old habits die hard because we don't want to allow a change in our thinking. If repentance is really a change in our thinking, it is possible that repentance is not just a "one time" thing.  In other words, if we don't change our way of thinking as quickly as we can switch on the light with a light switch on the wall, then it is quite possible we might not fully accomplish the change in action which accompanies that change in thought.  It may be entirely possible that repentance begins with the willingness to admit we are desperately "thinking" and therefore "acting" in a wrong manner.  The "act" of repentance may be a one time thing - the results of repentance may take a little longer because they involve a change in our way of thinking about those actions.

3. Thought requires effort.  I believe many of us imagine repentance as some kind of mystical moment in time when we "admit" to our failure and then expect some instant "re-creative" work done by Christ in our lives.  While this is partly true, there is some action on our part which is required beyond our "confession".  We often confuse confession and repentance.  One is the admission of guilt - the other is the walking out of our new way of thinking. We are not "saved" (made right with God) by any of our good deeds.  Scripture is clear on that one, but there is some "effort" on our part as it comes to changing our way of thinking about what we "used to do" and how we "used to think". We can only fully recognize the total transformation of repentance once we understand the mindset change which will drive the new actions which result from the desire to turn away from what has been problematic in our lives.

While salvation doesn't count on our effort, our effort is paramount to repentance.  Repentance is a change in thinking which results in a change in both the type and consistency of our actions.  First the type of actions we take change, then there is this whole idea of consistency.  We have all heard the adage, "If at first you don't succeed, try again."  The reason we may not have succeeded is the type of effort we are applying to the issue at hand.  When I cannot get the jar lid undone I don't throw away the jar!  I get out that rubber mat thing which gives me a little more traction and try again.  If that doesn't work, I bang that jar lid with the handle of a knife to kind of break the seal a little.  If that still doesn't work, I go to someone with more strength than me!  

While life isn't like the jar of pickles which stubbornly remains "untapped" because I cannot remove the lid, there is something in the process we need to understand.  First, I desire the pickles (much like I might desire to be free of past issues).  Second, I am willing to take some effort to get at what I desire (even when that effort may not realize the result I desired at first).  Third, I don't give up on the desire just because their is resistance to my effort.  We cannot give up on living free of our past just because there is resistance in our mind or emotions to the effort.  We may just have to change the "tact" we are using to be free of it!  Lastly, sometimes the jar of pickles is within our ability to "tap into", while other times we need a "helping hand" from someone stronger than us.  Have you ever noticed how easily the lid comes off when the other person actually gets their hands on it?  All our efforts may not have accomplished the full result of getting at the pickles, but they certainly prepared the way for the one with just a little more strength than us to make easy work of the project!  God may just let us struggle a little with the "lids" in our lives to see how determined we are to get at what we desire.  If he does this, it isn't that our confession has been unsuccessful, it is that our minds needed to catch up with our determination and action!  Just sayin!