A Lifestyle Of Repentance…Part 1

“The scary thing about this reality is that grace is only present when we are wrong. If we refuse to admit when we are wrong, and repent we cut-off the supply of grace that seeks to cleanse us.”

How tragic it is when such powerful words become diluted, or “cliché”. Does the power in a word fade away when it is used too much, or when the word is only spoken with the mouth and not practiced with the heart? Perhaps the word repent rubs many the wrong way, or holds no power because we do not know how to…do it. After all, it is much easier to merely say certain things, and leave it at that. Words begin to lose their power when the user stops at speaking the word, yet does nothing to pursue its depth through action.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:22-25

Many of us fail to experience the true freedom that is present within the beauty of the Gospel because we miss out on one of its most basic, core verbs. Repent. Or, for those of us who thought it was a “one-time” to-do when we “accepted Christ”, repentance may be the more necessary word. This is not something we do once, but something we are to stay in constant pursuit of. It is quite interesting that the main message brought by John the Baptist, Jesus, & His disciples was to “repent”. They then go on to say “be Baptized”. Repent. Perhaps we should press into this powerful command a bit more as we pursue Jesus.

Repentance means so much more than “turning from our sin”. The picture painted in ones mind is that of sin being a thing that is turned from once when we give our lives to Jesus, and no longer necessary throughout our journey. This leaves one to wonder, though, what it means to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”? This is no one-time decision, but a lifestyle in which the believer must become a master. How might one become a “master-repenter”?

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” Romans 2:4-5

First, we must learn to practice “The Art of Being Wrong”. (See previous article) We cannot repent of things in which we do not believe we are wrong. We cannot conclude we are wrong if our pride is always certain of how right we are. The scary thing about this reality is that grace is only present when we are wrong. (Romans 5:20) So, if our pride screams that we are never wrong then we are hindering ourselves from receiving the grace that desires to cleanse us. In our refusal to admit we are wrong, repent, and receive grace we blaspheme God, and Jesus’ work on the cross. We cease to grow in a deeper understanding of His work of grace in our lives. This is central to the message of the Gospel so many of us claim to live by. It is time we reprogrammed our default from defending ourselves/decisions as a pursuit of being right to a humble reflection of how we could have been more like Jesus in a particular situation. At this point we can begin to walk in a lifestyle of repentance…

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

Once we begin to experience the freedom, and redemption that follows a lifestyle of repentance we not only welcome being “called out” by others for potential sin in our lives, we begin to crave it. The Holy Spirit begins to replace in us the insecurity of having to be right all the time with a deep desire to be more like Jesus that only comes through this lifestyle of repentance.

When we fall into sin the enemy gains a small victory. He steals something away from us. When we get seduced by the things of this world we add to it’s sickness, as well as our own brokenness. The beauty of the Gospel is that we are forgiven and cleansed from that sin – IF we recognize it, and repent. We must walk in a constant spirit of repentance in order for the sanctifying truths of the Gospel to be at work in our lives. This is when things get exciting. You see, the things the enemy stole are taken back – they are redeemed as a result of our repentance. When we repent we invite the Spirit of God to enter into the situation and fix it, to make it right. Yes, there are consequences in this world for the sin we commit. However, a Gospel truth is that Jesus, in His goodness and through our repentance, will piece back together that which is broken…He redeems it for our good, and His glory. (Romans 8:28)

Stay Tuned for an incredible, real-life story of two people who have learned to walk in the “lifestyle of repentance”…

“The Art of Being Wrong”

“When we are wrong Jesus is right – it’s redemption in action.”

“You see, if we are never wrong about anything then that means Jesus isn’t having to make us right in any areas of our lives…we hinder His redemptive work in us.”

American culture (and human nature) screams that we must never, ever, ever, under any circumstances admit that we are wrong…about ANYTHING, ever. Whether it be a petty decision we made, statement that slipped out, or a huge life decision that did not go as planned, we seem to have an inability to recognize that we just might have been…WRONG. Is it really so bad…to be…WRONG?

I have determined that we, as humans, need to learn, practice, and perfect the art of being wrong; not when we are not wrong, of course. = ) Perhaps our default should not always be that we ARE right, and could not possibly be wrong. Maybe we could re-program our default to be that we quite possibly could have made a better decision.

“When we are wrong Jesus is right – it’s redemption in action.”

“You see, if we are never wrong about anything then that means Jesus isn’t having to make us right in any areas of our lives…we hinder His redemptive work in us.”

We allow our upbringing, traditions, and personal preferences to get in the way of being wrong all the time. These things cripple us from growing into the people we need to be; the people God desires to build us into. Over the past two years it has become increasingly freeing to let go of things I have done to realize they may be wrong, and could be better in. It hurts at first, but the end result is a more perfect you.

In marriage, our spouses have been placed into our lives to sanctify us by the Holy Spirit that lives within them. When we refuse to ever be wrong we disregard that truth, and hinder our own personal cleansing. In our lives as believers we are so certain we are right that we miss out on things God is trying to teach us.

This also plays into how we “do ministry”, church, etc. My friend Neil Cole directs an organization called CMA. In their organization they have what they call a “wall of shame”. On these shelves resides years worth curriculum, strategies, and plans that they had to retire due to their ineffectiveness. They were willing to accept that those things were…wrong. They put them on the shelf, and began striving for better. Of course, it was painful to retire the resources that took so much time, energy, and money to create. However, the end result was so much more beautiful than the tragedy that would have followed had they insisted on being right.

We could go on and on with examples of how this plays into our lives, and negatively affects us. I am not suggesting that we be ok with being wrong all the time, or become insecure in everything we do because we “might be wrong”. I am simply suggesting that we have a much looser grip on our pride that insists we are incapable of making a bad decision…otherwise known as…SIN. If I never realize, and accept the sin in my life because of pride or not wanting to be wrong I refuse to allow anything in my life to be redeemed.

“Jesus, continually reveal to us where we are wrong. Allow Your Spirit in us to more quickly recognize these wrongs so we may invite Your Spirit in to bring us back into alignment with Your Kingdom. If we neglect this longer we continue to shout with our actions that Your work on the cross was unnecessary, and that we do not need it. Set us free Jesus, and remind us of the permission you gave us to be wrong when you died for the fact that we are sinful.”

I leave you with two definitions…

Redeem: Compensate for faults, or bad aspects.

Redemption: The action of saving, or being saved from sin, error, evil.

Dependent.

I have been thinking a lot lately about things that we are dependent upon as Christians in America & in the church in America. Sadly, my thoughts have not brought me to the person of Jesus Christ, and the leading power of His Holy Spirit. It would seem as if HE IS NOT ENOUGH.

I have had many conversations with many of you over the past few months about things that we are dependent on. These are things that, if they were taken away from us, we would not know what to do/how to function. We MIGHT survive, but you can forget a flourishing walk with Christ that usher’s in His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

It is very odd to me that most arguments or discussions I hear regarding “church” and what it means to follow Christ are rarely about an individual’s complete denial of self, and pursuit of the Great Commission. Instead, they are about things other than that…things that are seemingly irrelevant compared to the above. We will talk about “how to do church”, “church structure”, doctrine, staff, gatherings, elders, pastors, programs, worship, sermons, podcasts, etc. etc. etc.

I began to think…in my thinking I began to discuss these thoughts with some individuals. I began to introduce scenarios that lacked the above elements (“church”, structure, institution, pastoral staff, programs, worship services, sermons, teaching, childcare, youth groups, small groups, Bible Studies, etc.) and those I spoke with started getting VERY uncomfortable. They began to speak back at me as if I had just denied Christ and the Cross. It was as if it were THOSE things that mattered, as if THOSE were the things that held the most value in the kingdom. It was as if THOSE were the things they were dependent upon, and if they were taken away there would be no way to function as a follower of Christ.

My mind began to wonder to other countries where the believers there have NONE of the things in either of the above lists. They have Christ. They are LUCKY if they have a few pages of the Bible, and enough food to eat on a daily basis. Chances are they do have a thriving community of other believers who are in the same boat as them, completely & utterly dependent upon Christ. You see, Christ is enough for them. They have nothing BUT Christ, and it’s enough. They don’t “need to be fed”, or tickled by some fancy guitar riff in the middle of a Hillsong….song. They don’t need to be entertained by funny sermons or podcasts, and they certainly don’t need a group of professionals planning out their monthly service project or weekly program. (Not all of these things are BAD, however, when we become dependent upon them, and cannot fathom life without them it is DANGEROUS)

It would appear as if we, as Christians in America, are dependent upon a lot of things; Christ does not seem to be one of them. We seem to be too wrapped up in idolatry to notice our need for a risen Savior. Yes, I said IDOLATRY because that’s what we do. We don’t worship Christ. We worship the things in the lists above. We worship & idolize & are dependent upon them because if they were taken away from us our “faith” would fall to pieces. We would be left in shambles.

“Christ, forgive us for our idolatrous hearts. Turn us back to you. Do whatever it is that you must do to cause us to place you above any other gods. We need you.”

What are some other things that you can think of that the church in America may be dependent upon? (Things that an average Christian might not know what to do without if it were taken from them)

Amendment…Ouch.

After going back & reading over my last post, “A Bad Thing…?” and having several close friends (including my wife) point out that some things said may have been a bit harsh, out of line, or taken the wrong way I realized the need for action. My pride screamed out, but then I remembered that these people truly care about me, are kingdom minded, and have no hidden agenda…

My first response was to retaliate to their comments or emails defensively…which I did in some cases (sorry=). After some discussion with friends, and wrestling with the Holy Spirit I realized I needed to do something much different.

My second thought was to DELETE the blog post, which would be the easy thing to do. I then realized that I truly wanted my wrestle to be SEEN, or READ by anyone who reads my blog. I wanted it to be evident how easy it is for us (me in this case) to slip into challenging and questioning the motives of others, which can be very dangerous.

I wrote the last post rather quickly, and with little pre-post revisions. I did not run it by anyone first, and had a bit of a bad taste in my mouth based upon the experiences I mentioned in the post itself. (By no means an attempt to justify)

So, I wanted to “go on the record” with an amendment to my last entry. Again, I do not want to remove the post, but paint a full picture. May these two entries be a lesson learned the hard way, with hopes that others can avoid falling into such traps.

In the post I challenged the motives, and reasons behind why many pastors plant churches. What I unintentionally did was generalize, and group all pastors into that category. That is not fair. I made the attack that they only plant churches if it benefits them in some way, etc. I did not realize how harshly this came across, and want to retract that statement. I realize now that it was completely unnecessary at getting across the point I was making in the first place. Silly Aaron.

I am embarrased by the fact that I accidentally allowed myself to make a very general statement that lumped a lot of really great guys into a category that they did not belong. I felt terrible as I realized that our BIGGEST financial supporter could have been lumped into that category based upon my EXTREME, and unnecesary comment. (They would be the FARTHEST thing from my description in the last post)

My wife gently pointed out to me that by making such an accusation I was doing the very thing to these wrongly accused pastors that SOME others have done to us in the past. We, and many other like-minded individiuals have been lumped into the category of “rebellious”, “house-church”, “wound-lickers”, etc. Morgan challenged me with something that many of us in the “simple church” world are constantly wrestling with: “Be careful, lest you become what you hate”. In other words, I was upset that some pastors had delegitimized some of our student church planters, & grouped them in with some angry, upper-middle class, baby-boomer, “house church” people. It led me to retaliate by doing the same thing to them that I was upset at them for doing to me. Silly Aaron.

My whole point in the previous post was that young people who are passionate/apostolic need some good ol’ spiritual fathers to encourage, release, and affirm them. (I could have fit that into a 140 character twitter update!) But NO, I just had to bring out some unneeded, below-the-belt jabs; for these I apologize, especially if you accidentally got generalized.

I would, however, encourage every “church planter” or pastor of a church that plants churches to always check your motives. In our organization we try to check ours on a regular basis. About a year into things we realized that we had fallen back into a numbers trap by trying to start a bunch of churches “in our network” (Duh, so we could take credit for them, and show everyone how much God was using us…) Praise Christ that He revealed that evil in our…MY heart, and led us to make proper changes.

Sometimes the enemy sneaks in to pervert the most good-intentioned things, making them evil at the core, but pretty on the outside.

To sum it all up: OMIT the entire first four paragraphs of the previous post. =)

Thank you all for your grace.