R.C. Sproul writes, “Man-centered theology leads to emotional manipulation wherein thousands are coerced into making false professions of faith.” He notes that this view of salvation “minimizes our radical corruption as sinners and God’s power to save His people for His glory.”
Similarly, thousands are guilted into attempting repentance via self-control. Even born-again Christians can be tempted to achieve repentance. Sproul says coerced professions of faith fail to produce assurance in our heart. Likewise, self-control fails to produce spiritual peace in our heart.
Much less actual repentance…
Could this be why repentance today seems so unsustainable?
Repentance can be sustained — this is a biblical promise! So how do we find it?
When one is born again, all our “giving my heart to Jesus” moments are transcended by the actual coming of the Holy Spirit to live inside. Our thirst for salvation is now satiated. You cannot know what you do not know… until you know! This is how it is with salvation: You know it when He comes.
The First Fruit of the Spirit is experiencing God’s presence. God gives us His presence only by His grace. We do not achieve it: He gives it; produces it; and ordains it. He is the sole author and producer of our salvation; and only He has the power to sustain it. He will do just that…
After He has chosen to abide in us, however, we must make a choice to continue to abide in Him. As we abide in Him, we develop deep confidence in what God has done for us. His salvation and presence grow inside us and touch every area of our lives.
This “first abiding” is intended to flow through this life and up into eternal life. We are intended to continue in this abiding. As we experience the deepening peace of salvation, the Second Fruit of the Spirit emerges within us. I call it organic repentance. We are not achieving goodness, it is simply flowing in and through us. This can deepen throughout an entire lifetime.
The scriptures, however, describe us as sheep who tend to wander. When we wander from abiding in Christ, we lose dependence upon Him. Our salvation is no less effective, but our assurance becomes wobbly. In this realm of our own strength, it is only a matter of time before we get trapped in sin. Trapped in sin, we will be tempted (by Satan) to deal with this via self-control.
Our own efforts lead to much failure. If you do not believe that, life will prove it to you…eventually. When we truly learn just how weak we are, we will seek a strength outside us. Until then, we will try a million times to do the right thing. When all of life collapses, however, we will “return to our first love” (the “first abiding”). We will seek God with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind.
The Aramaic word for repentance simply means “return to the source.”
When we return to God, we lose our preferences and our ways. Our ways have utterly failed. This leads us to wholly depend upon Jesus. As we abide in Him, we adopt a posture of weakness; of hiding; of seeking refuge. In this weakness, Christ’s strength is perfected. With man this is impossible, but with Jesus all things are possible.
Our biggest failures play an important role in maturing us. God allows this learning process to redemptively unfold. This is how the True Vine who began a good work in us can now root the power of salvation into every fiber of our being. This power that saves is the same power that expels sin. We do not achieve repentance: Jesus produces it is us! Repentance is the fruit of His presence.
The Third Fruit of the Spirit is humility. While failure and devastation tend to breed humility, it is this very soil in which God rebuilds lives. Knowing this, we will now extend Christ more generously to others. We know people cannot save themselves; change their beliefs; nor repent without God’s presence breaking into their lives. We will cease trying to shame others into the Kingdom or trying to control their behavior. Absent the invasion of the Holy Spirit, we all like sheep have gone astray.
Abiding in Christ produces three fruits: salvation, repentance and relational humility. As we continue to abide in Jesus, God produces other fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It turns out do need self-control, but this kind flows from God’s presence living in us.
So how we do get there?
One way. I tried every other way and failed. In desperate moments, I sense a need to radically depend on God to help, rescue, provide for, and protect me (and my family). This need draws me deep into the Bible searching for God’s promises. His promises produce faith, hope and gratitude. Sincere gratitude produces peace which draws me into prayer. In prayer, I proclaim God’s promises and profess my belief that He will help me. All this deepens my abiding in the True Vine.
Closing Reflection: Without a desperate need for God, we tend to dive into the shallow waters of God’s presence. When we truly understand how much we need His help, the waters of God’s presence are infinitely deep. If every other personal attempt has failed, why not try diving DEEP into God’s Word? Some have asked: but is there any “practical way” that I can do something to repent. I think we must realize just how practical the spiritual life is. However, here is one idea: take an action step that will increase the opportunity for you to dive deep into God’s Word. I have chosen to reduce “online living.” I love social networking, but there is a time when we need to unplug and be in spaces where we cannot check email, update our status, tweet our ideas, or worse. For further help, simply contact Lead Them Home.
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