The Six Parts of Repentance

Repentance is such a loaded word, one that doesn’t mean much outside Christian circles and bears various meanings even within those circles. Like justification and propitiation, we know what repentance means but find that meaning hard to articulate.

Both John the Baptist and Jesus shouted over the crowds, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven has come near” (Matthew 3:2, 4:17). Peter told a gathered crowd, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you…” (Acts 2:38). And Paul talked about a Godly sorrow that produces repentance, which in turn leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Repentance shows up in the Old Testament too, and Hosea gives us one of the best explanations of it in Hosea 14:1-3. This comes after all the very tangible imagery involving Hosea’s marriage to a prostitute, the weird naming of his children, and the many chapters of pleading with the people. All the way at the end of Hosea, this prophet supplies the people with an exact set of words to say. We know repentance is a turning (or a returning) that results in a lifestyle change. Hosea covers that in verse 1. Then take a look:

Take words with you
and return to the Lord.
Say to him:
“Forgive all our sins
and receive us graciously,
that we may offer the fruit of our lips.
Assyria cannot save us;
we will not mount warhorses.
We will never again say ‘Our gods’
to what our own hands have made,
for in you the fatherless find compassion.”
  -Hosea 14:2-3

When we break it down, we find these six parts of repentance.

  1. Ask for forgiveness. “Forgive all our sins”

Confession is the act
of agreeing with God
about our sin.

Repentance begins with an acknowledgement of our sinfulness, specifically yet comprehensively. We know that confession (the authentic plea for forgiveness) is the act of agreeing with God about our sin and sincerely desiring to remove it from our lives.

  1. Request acceptance. “Receive us graciously”

Our sin separates us from God, so it’s necessary to ask for readmittance to His presence (even though, in another way, He never leaves us). It’s like saying, “May I please sit back down at the table with you?”

  1. Deny outside sources of power. “Assyria cannot save us”

In our humanity, we tend to turn to tangible strengths: things we see and experience as powerful in the world. For the Israelites, it was a strong political entity. For us, it might be political or it might be financial, social, or some other aspect of life that makes us feel safe and valuable. In repentance, we say with the Psalmist, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7)!

Nothing will ever be more
trustworthy or more powerful
than the mere name of Yahweh!

Brief aside. Psalm 20:7 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible, and I always feel the need to exclaim it (hence the exclamation mark above). Consider this: Chariots are man-made contraptions, the technological marvel of their day. Horses are a powerful part of nature that we can tame and teach. However, nothing ever invented or built by humanity—no technology, no machine, no application—nor anything existing in nature, whether we can tame it or not…nothing will ever be more trustworthy or more powerful than the mere name of Yahweh! Shout hallelujah with me, won’t you? And can we get some more exclamation marks up in here?!?!!!

  1. Relinquish self-sufficiency. “We will not mount warhorses”

If we don’t look outward, we look inward to fulfill our needs when we’re in a state of sinfulness. We think we can overcome temptation on our own. We dig down deep, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, or invest our time/money in whatever fad promises quick and easy self-fulfillment this month. Letting go of self-sufficiency is part of full repentance.

  1. Turn from idolatry. “We will never again say ‘Our gods’…”

Idolatry is almost always a factor in our sinfulness. When we prioritize anything above God, that thing or idea has become an idol. Some spend a lifetime building the ideal home, the business empire, or the dominant social network. As long as they look to those things for help or expect those things to supply their needs, they cannot truly repent.

  1. Acknowledge God’s compassion. “in you the fatherless find compassion”

Allow Him to take over…

Finally, repentance reconnects us with God. It’s easy to fall into a cycle where we admit we’ve done wrong then ask for a chance to try again. No! That’s not repentance. Instead, He calls us to accept His gentle embrace and allow Him to take over, to be sovereign, to direct our inward and outward lives. Then, He has responded to our request for acceptance and we have completed the repentance process.

A 6-step model of repentance in Hosea. Because we all need a reminder occasionally. (click to tweet)

I know this is not the most exciting or funny blog post you’ve ever read, but sometimes we need to look at fundamental truths in different ways. Sometimes we need an Old Testament dose of prophetic bluntness to shake up our New Testament theology. What did you read here that helped you in your walk with God today? What have you read elsewhere that would be a good companion piece for this post? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Spiritual Disciplines in the Car (part 2)

With busy lives and little time for retreat or relaxation, it can be easy to neglect our spiritual growth. This week and last week, I’m sharing some practical ideas for observing spiritual disciplines even while you’re driving down the road in the car. Join in, and let’s see what God can do!

The disciplines of activity are about things we do or things we grab hold of, compared to last week’s list of things we avoid.

Spiritual Disciplines of Activity for the Car

Study – Listen to a recording of the Bible, but don’t let it just drone on and on. Listen to a big chunk such as a chapter or full narrative story (all of Joseph, for example), then stop the recording and reflect on what you’ve heard. At other times, try very small bits of Scripture. If traffic permits, listen to one verse or paragraph at a time, stopping the recording frequently in order to meditate on what you’ve heard. No matter how much you heard, when you reach your destination, take a minute before you open the door to record any insights or fresh understanding.

Alternatively, practice a single verse or passage until you have it memorized. Pull it up on your phone or write it on a card. Look at it when you’re stopped (such as at a traffic light), then recite it while you drive. Check yourself the next time you stop.

You might also listen to podcasts of sermons or audio books on Christian topics.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:11

Worship – Sing along with praise music. Recite psalms. Voice prayers of adoration and thanksgiving. The point is that you enjoy Who God is and relish His Presence with you.

We praise you, God, we praise you, for your Name is near; people tell of your wonderful deeds. -Psalm 75:1

Leave space for God to
respond in your prayers.

Prayer – Pray out loud. These days, you don’t have to be self-conscious. People in surrounding cars will just think you’re talking on the phone. As you pray, don’t take up all the time with your own words. Leave space for God to respond. You’ll be surprised at how He plants ideas and/or verses in your head when you pray like this!

I pray to you, Lord, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation. -Psalm 69:13

Fellowship – The easiest way to do this is simply to carpool with other believers. Alternatively, invite someone to accompany you even though they don’t need to go where you’re going. Either way, use your travel time to talk about real things. If nothing else, share your stories of coming to know Christ. If you can’t be in the same vehicle, call the person. Put your phone on speaker and have an in-depth spiritual conversation as you travel. Sometimes this is easier than sitting down face-to-face with nothing for your hands to do and nowhere safe for your eyes to rest.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. -1 John 1:3

Confession – In a spirit of prayer, allow the Holy Spirit free reign in your heart to convict you of any unconfessed sin. If you have a hard time getting started, listen to and meditate on Psalm 51. When you arrive at your destination, phone anyone from whom you need to ask forgiveness. Do it immediately or you won’t follow through (at least, I wouldn’t)!

Confession is agreeing
with God about Who He
is and who I am.

Confession isn’t only about exposing sins. Remember Romans 10:9 (not in NIV but in other translations such as ESV)? It says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” There’s an idea of acknowledgement (the AMP demonstrates this) or agreeing with God about Who He is and who I am. I’ve read about and tried a sort of breathing confession that goes like this: As you breathe out, agree with God that you are sinful and in need of His guidance, shelter, presence, etc. As you breathe in, ask for a greater filling of the Holy Spirit to accomplish His glory in the moment. This type of moment-by-moment confession can help you focus on God’s presence and action in your life.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. -Psalm 32:5

Submission – Follow the speed limit for the entirety of a long drive. After all, the Scriptures say, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority” (1 Peter 2:13). Just plan ahead on this one because it will take you longer than usual to reach your destination!

Ask someone to hold you accountable for practicing some portion (or all!) of these spiritual disciplines for the car over a specified amount of time. Report your activity regularly.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. -Ephesians 5:21

It doesn’t take much to make the spiritual disciplines a part of our everyday lives—just a little intentionality. Try one of these suggestions this week and see how God blesses your effort.

Make the spiritual disciplines a part of your everyday life by practicing in the car. (click to tweet)

I pray these ideas have sparked something in your mind. What from this list do you want to try? What other suggestions do you have? Let’s start a conversation of encouragement in the comments below!

When “For the Good” Doesn’t Feel So Good

The conversation shifted from subject to subject, circling back, leaping forward, in the way conversations with good friends often do. My coffee was finished, and my friend had an appointment soon. It was almost time to go when she mentioned something about a women’s ministry team at our church. This team was established and had already planned an event.

I love women’s ministry! I think we, as women, need time together outside the regular routines of life, and we need spirit-filled relationships within those routines. I’m passionate about one-on-one discipleship. I’ve spoken at women’s events. I led the women’s ministry at our previous church in another state (a bigger church than where we go now). I mean, it just made sense for me to do this. How could I have been overlooked?!? Why wasn’t I asked to participate?!

I blurted, “Oh, you should have asked me to be on this team,” hiding my hurt with a smile.

She looked at me blankly, as if the thought had never occurred to her and replied, “Yeah, we should have.”

Everything I felt started with ‘I’.

As I backed out of the driveway a few minutes later, my heart was on fire. I felt ignored, insulted, isolated…and probably some other things that start with ‘I’.

I would have said ‘yes.’

My next stop was that really large department store where we all pay our dues even though we hate buying tires and tater tots under the same roof. (Okay, maybe that’s just me.) It was about ten minutes away. As I drove, I laid my aching heart before the Lord, asking Him why my friends overlooked me or perhaps even rejected me. I told God that I wanted to be asked so I would have the chance to pray about it, to decide if it was part of His will. (Does everyone see the fault in my logic here? Does everyone see the pride that still consumes me?) Then I realized that I would have probably said ‘yes’ to being on the team.

God led my mind toward the inevitable consequences of that ‘yes’: multiple evening meetings, time away from family, tasks to complete, phone calls, brain power and emotions depleted because I can’t do anything at 50%. He gently reminded me of my callings in this ‘season’ of life. Besides the ongoing and superlative tasks of being a wife and mother, I am supposed to write. That’s where I need to spend my time and energy. I need to be home with my family in the evenings. I need to pour my heart into discipling my children. I need to reserve some attention for my husband. And I need to wear my fingers out on this keyboard.

My inevitable ‘yes’ would have put
me outside the will of God.

If I had said ‘yes’ to the women’s ministry team, I would have done good work. I would have felt positive about my contribution to our church body. It would have looked Christ-like, and I would probably have garnered praise from others in our church. But I would have rejected my very-real calling as a Bible study writer. I would have been outside the purposes of God. By causing me to be overlooked, our wise Heavenly Father protected me from myself and from a pattern of disobedience that would have eventually affected all my relationships—especially my relationship with Him.

I pulled into a far-away parking space (because I can always use the extra steps) and just sat there in the car, praising God. In ten minutes, He took me from complaining and questioning to thanksgiving; isn’t that fantastic? When he prevented my invitation to the women’s ministry team, He did something good for me; it just didn’t feel so good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. –Romans 8:28

#Confession: Sometimes “for the good” doesn’t feel so good in the moment. #NotAboutMe #GodsWill (click to tweet)

God was working this situation for my good even when it didn’t feel very good. When have you seem Him work “behind the scenes” to protect or promote you? How have you experienced the truth of Romans 8:28?