Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Effect on My Personal Walk with Christ

I have greatly appreciated the effect that the study for this series on Biblical repentance has had on my personal spiritual walk. Thinking about these things at such depth for a prolonged time has shed light on how inclined I am to be a ‘functional Catholic’ when I confess my sin and seek to be restored to fellowship with God. Though I vehemently denounce the doctrine of penance as blasphemous, my flesh, ever seeking its own self-righteousness, is prone to try to earn God’s forgiveness. I’ve recognized how often, when I ask for forgiveness, my deep sorrow is more a reflection of my pride than my sadness over the offense of my sin to my God. While I never consciously or explicitly state it this way, my sadness is essentially saying, “I’m sorry, Lord. I should be better than this.”

But the point of the Gospel of grace and the scandal of Christ’s substitutionary atonement is that I am not better than this. It took the sinless Son of God to die in my place precisely because I could not do any better. Too often Paul’s admonition to the Galatians could be levied against me: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3).

It has been freeing to be reminded of and to meditate on the truth that God is not pleased with a burnt offering (my works of penance), but that the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit and a contrite heart (Ps 51:16-17). Often, as I contemplate the grievousness of my sin, I feel that unless I feel badly enough, pray long enough, or do some act of service, God will not restore me to fellowship with Him. I’ve even felt like I was offending God by asking to be forgiven after so quick a confession. (What an unbelievably prideful thought! That is precisely why the Father sent His Son. Do I think I shouldn’t need Him?)

Yet what a joy it’s been to be reminded that in Christ God does not keep His children at bay with a stiffened arm until they have demonstrated themselves worthy of forgiveness and acceptance. Rather, He is the loving Father who once ran to embrace me at the first sign of my return (Lk 15:20)
. If I received such grace while I was His enemy (Rom 5:10), how much more can I hope to be reconciled to Him now that I am His friend! There is no more punishment for me to bear (Rom 8:1), no more atonement to make (Heb 9:24-26; 10:11-14). Therefore, I do not need to view confession as a burdensome or repulsive task. No, confession is sweet to my soul, a pleasant and delightful exercise that removes the burden of my sin and restores to me the joy of the Lord’s salvation (cf. Ps 32:3-5; 51:12).

Further, I’ve been impressed by the truth that any fruit that is borne in keeping with repentance is joyful obedience, flowing naturally from a heart that loves God and desires to experience even more of His grace. His gift of forgiveness does not indebt me to Him, forcing me to pay Him back by burdensome labor. Rather, past and present experiences of grace spur me on all the more to live a life of obedient faith in the hope of future grace. I obey because I get more of Him. Indeed, the one who keeps His commandments is the one who loves Him (Jn 14:15)

In a way that I have often failed to understand, my Christian walk becomes a fight to see the Lord Jesus; indeed, it is by beholding Him that I am transformed into the likeness of His glory (2Cor 3:18)
. I am motivated by the promise of blessing, as a son, and not by the fear of punishment, as a slave (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:7). Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

1 comment:

Mark D. Twombly said...

Mike, I really resonate with this. How easy it is in my pride to lament the fact that I've 'blown it' rather than to get low before God with no excuses, no way to make up for it, but simply to rest in the sufficiency of Christ.
I find myself lately eager to discard my arrogance, anxiety and anger and to fully take hold of His sufficency and sovereignty.