I John 1:9 (NKJV) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
During worship on Sunday morning with lifted hands our congregation sang together, “Holy Spirit you are welcome here…” In the midst of mixed melody as voices melded together inviting the Lord to join us, I heard the whisper of the man standing behind me. I promise I was not ease dropping and I definitely was pressing into the Presence of God all around us. Yet, his words caught my attention and immediate my heart was shattered in that moment. He simply said, “Jesus, forgive me of my sins.” It was soft and intimate. Like one might whisper to a loved one in an embrace. The intent of his heart rolling of his lips in the sweetest apology that I know melted God’s Heart. It made me ask myself when was the last time that I came to the Lord and chose simply to repent?
This verse brings back memories of a scripture memorization challenge in high school. More years ago than I care to count, we were given packets of cards to memorize just one verse per week. This would be the card on top. The significance only now sinking in after many decades. Our life in Jesus Christ begins and ends in simple repentance. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us. He does it all. Not only does He accept our apology but unlike in the realm of humanity – the Lord chooses to restore our righteousness or right standing on the spot without anything else from us. True repentance opens the door to righteousness. To humble myself before the Lord and to say, I have sinned and I am sorry opens the door to prosperity in the life of a believer. Obedience does not change the heart or mind of God toward us. It is repentance that does that. If I could have done anything to save myself from sin, then salvation may have been something altogether different. But the truth is that apart from Jesus Christ, I am nothing. I have no future. I cannot produce anything good in my life including salvation. It is the single most important step of faith that secures future hope for all mankind.
Luke 18:9-14 (NKJV) Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Romans 3:23-25 (NKJV) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed…
We all have sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory. God has justified us freely by His Grace through the redemption offered by Jesus Christ. God accepted His Blood sacrifice as enough to repay every single sin ever committed past, present and future. By way of the Cross, those who humble themselves before the Lord and repent will receive God’s Glory in their life. Note it does not give a list of demands or expectations other than we come with open hearts to receive the Lord. The Pharisee came to the temple to pray. He came to repay an obligation. His routine ritual defined by religion. He prayed loudly so everyone could hear him. He used comparison to prove his ceremonial worthiness. He was prideful. He was arrogant. This man left the temple the same way that he arrived. Full of self. Full of sin.
The Tax Collector
Micah 6:8 (NKJV) He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
James 4:10 (NKJV) Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
The tax collector came to the same temple to pray in the exact same condition as the Pharisee. Obedience will never take the place of repentance. It implies that salvation can be earned which is not true. It is offered and received by the humble. Those who are willing to come before the Lord and confess their sins from an honest and forthright heart. The Pharisee compared his life to the other people who came to pray and worship God. Comparison will always keep us from the Cross. My calling is to walk humbly with my God. I cannot do that trying to be like or be better than anyone else. I must keep my eyes on Jesus Christ and keep the way clear. He is close to the brokenhearted. Those who fully expose their heart to the Lord cannot do so without repentance. A relationship defined by love cannot stand to have anything barring access to the other. When we hurt someone we love, we should apologize. To fully restore the relationship there must be some kind of repentance.
What does it mean to repent? The word comes from Latin origin meaning repentir or “to regret” and poenitire to “make sorry”. The Old French definition means to feel such regret for sins as produces an amendment of life. The origin of the words regret and repent are connected. One should produce the other. According to Dictionary.com, repent means to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better. To repent means to ask God’s Forgiveness through Jesus Christ and turn from that thing which brought you there. I cannot live a successful life with God is I am not consciously aware of the sin that separates us and take the time to simply repent. Romans 3:23-25 makes it clear that 1) We have all sinned and need God’s Forgiveness; 2) None of us can afford to repay the debt associated with our sin so we need Jesus; 3) the only way salvation can be received is to accept it and obtain it freely; and 4) There is nothing I can do to repay Jesus for one ounce of His Blood so I must live in humble acquisition of His Grace. This is an act of humility. There is nothing I can do to save myself. My life is no longer my own.
Proverbs 28:13 (NKJV) He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.
The person who covers his sins will not prosper. There is a subtle truth in this statement that pride and self-preservation would like for us to overlook. The enemy will continually offer substitutions for true repentance and water down grace if possible by offering excuses for our indiscretions. The worst one of all is comparison. The truth is my first sin was the only sin needed to condemn my life to certain death. It required every single ounce of Jesus’ blood in repayment. God did that for me. Jesus died for me. There are many empty altars in the House of God with rooms full of Pharisees trying to pretend that sin is not their problem any longer. The few who do choose to live at the foot of the Cross are afraid of judgement by the religious order of the day and quietly whisper to God from their seats. I wonder what would happen if we all chose to simply repent before the Lord as the tax collector did that day. To say to the Lord, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”
2 Chronicles 7:14-15 (NKJV) if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.
Could it be that the church is going about this revival thing all wrong? What if the Lord is listening and waiting for a people to humble themselves, pray and seek His Face willing to turn from their sin and simply repent. The Word of God says that He will hear from heaven, forgive us and heal our land. We must humble our heart before the Lord at every opportunity. True love is defined by forgiveness. Constant grace for each other as offered by the Lord to us. We must learn to live in love with Jesus. We do this by living a truly repentant life that is not afraid to humble our life at the foot of the Cross. To kneel at the local altar in our churches. To say, “I am a sinner who needs God’s Grace.” The confession of an obedient servant touched my heart yesterday. His apology was soft, honest and sincere. His words laced with love, awe and admiration. They broke my heart for my Savior all over again and within a few short minutes, I was doing the same. It was freeing. I felt a peace flood over me. Worries and cares melted off of me. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. Our willingness to expose all of our life including our shortcomings and sin to the life-giving and life-changing Power of the Living God will never take anything from us we do not want or force anything upon us. It will break every chain holding back God’s Blessing and Prosperity in our life. It is my earnest and heartfelt intent to start each day from this place. To simply repent and walk humbly with my God.
Psalm 26:4 (NKJV) Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my mind and my heart.
Psalm 51:9-12 (NKJV) Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.