Even though these things aren't easy or popular to talk about, they are worth talking about because of where they can lead.
Where does this all start? No one naturally has the desire to confess and repent of their sin, and be obedient to God’s leading. A few months ago I was listening to a sermon when the pastor said something that grabbed my attention. He claimed that the thing that sets apart thriving Christians from struggling Christians is the amount of time they spend drawing near to God for He promises when we do so, He will draw near to us. When He draws near to us in His perfect timing, we begin to see there is nothing more beautiful in the world than Jesus. As that happens, we begin to hate the things that get in the way of us drawing near to God.
My own heart is what draws me away from God the most. It is deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9). I like to think that I know what will bring me happiness and a good life. Yet so often, when I make life all about me, I’m miserable. There are a thousand things I could name that draw my heart away from God but here are a few specific ones I struggle with every day. I can’t be too busy. I have to make sure I schedule out specific times during my week to spend seeking God and allowing Him to reveal what’s really going on in my heart. I can’t watch much TV. If I do, I start to care too much and it overtakes the things I should be doing. Lastly, I go to food rather than God to help me deal with life. It has taken me a long time to be able to admit that, but my dependence on food has been a major thing that has kept me from drawing near to God.
This is where confession and repentance comes in. It is His kindness that leads us to repentance. I can honestly say that as I confess my sins to God and to the people in my life, God is healing my heart just as He promised He would. Ezekiel 36:26I says “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.” Everything I’m talking about is only possible when I become a new creation in Christ by God’s grace through faith in what Jesus accomplished on the cross. There is a way that seems right but its end is death and destruction; but Jesus came to give us life and an abundance of it. Repentance is simply turning from our natural desires to chasing the abundant life Jesus longs for each one of us to experience. Repentance at the most basic level is choosing to love Jesus above all else.
Repentance then leads to a desire to obey Jesus because we have tasted and seen that He is good. We become more and more convinced that His way is so much better than the selfishness, bitterness, envy and self-promotion of comfort and attention we have tried to find joy in. Jesus frees us from all of that! There is freedom in not having to pretend we are something we’re not or that we have it altogether. There is freedom in not having to depend on people, on ourselves and events for our joy. There is freedom being able to say “I’m a mess but look how amazing Jesus is!” Because we have experienced so much love and forgiveness in Jesus, we are freed up to offer the same to others.
I’ll be honest though, many times obedience to God is very hard. Even though I know I am deeply loved in Christ and that He is trying to lead me into the deepest level of joy, I want to do what feels right in the moment. His way is totally different than ours. He calls us to love our enemies, to forgive those who hurt us, to lay down our rights and wants for others, to give everything to follow Jesus. Obedience can be very costly. Even in the times I manage to obey God through His grace, I usually fight Him in the process. Even though I often don’t understand His ways, I can say with all my heart, He is worth it all! I can never out give God. My emotions often follow after my obedience but nothing compares to the joy that is possible in following Jesus and allowing Him to give me a new heart. Despite my sinful heart that is so slow to trust and obey Him, I know God still loves me with an unfailing love and grace. The same is true for anyone who will run to Jesus. How amazing is that?!
He is worth it all!!
Here is a song that has been a large inspiration to this blog: