Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Refreshingly Unpleasant

Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
Joel 2:13

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord...
Acts 3:19

I know. These verses don't exactly lend themselves to the kid of uplifting, airy tone we come to expect from a devotional. I would probably get more readers writing about lighter fare.  So why share these verses?

Because I need to be reminded of them, and I am betting that at least some of you out there are like me. I tend to forget the importance of repentance and confession in my ongoing relationship with Jesus. Recently I have started using the ACTS prayer model when I pray. If you aren't familiar, it's an acrostic that helps you balance your prayers between four important types of prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (our requests). Before I started doing this I almost never spent any time in confession before God. Any prayer I offered up included requests. Oftentimes I had a smattering of thanksgiving. Occasionally I would offer up some praise. But I almost never of my own inclination turned toward confession and repentance.

I am guessing that you are like me. Maybe you think you are pretty good. You may even struggle to think of sin in your life that you need to confess. It's ridiculous how often I have found myself in this state of arrogance and delusion. If you struggle to think of sins you need to confess, trust me it isn't because you have none. Rather you should take it as a sign of just how blind you are to your own sin. The most sanctified among us have more sin remaining in their heart than they could easily fit into a single prayer time. If you really want help finding your sins out, ask your spouse or a close friend what sin they see in your life. But be prepared for an honest answer!

Maybe you aren't like me. Maybe you know your sin all too well. You feel the shame and the weight of it and it's unpleasant to you. You avoid this unpleasantness by refusing to deal with the sin. That's why you don't confess. You would rather ignore it. Or perhaps you know your sin but you aren't willing to repent of it. You love it and want to continue in the same path. You keep your conscience tamped down by trying not to think about your sin too much. So you cling to it and hope God doesn't notice.

Whatever your reason, trust me when I say that it's a shame that we don't spend more time confessing our sins to God. Your sin affects your nearness to God and your effectiveness in His kingdom. Who knows the ways it may be hindering you and your family spiritually, materially or financially. Greater levels of intimacy with the Lord lie on the other side of repentance. It is likely that greater blessing is there as well, for God loves to bless the righteous. And finally there is without a doubt, forgiveness and freedom waiting for those who will confess their sins and turn away from them. As I John 4:8 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Set aside some time right now to confess five sins to the Lord. Even though it may seem unpleasant at first, rest assured that this important Christian discipline will bring "times of refreshing from the Lord."  

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