“Repentance is not something God demands of you before He will take you back and which He could let you off if He chose; it is simply a description of what going back is like.”
Repentance is the result of a vibrant and loving relationship with God.
When I started in my walk with God, I thought of repentance as another task to do as a Christian. Whenever I sin, I have to repent. But seeing it this way made it another “good work” that had to be checked off a list.
God invited us to a relationship, not a job interview.
I tend to forget this truth in seasons of struggling and trial. If I need to constantly be reminded of this, it follows that I also have to remind those I am mentoring about this.
Repentance, though, is not an easy task. It requires bringing to light the things that we would rather keep in the dark. It means being vulnerable and seeking help, even when we’d rather pretend to have it all together. And it means surrendering a way of living that we have grown comfortable with.
So how do we help those we lead see the beauty of a life of truth, repentance, and faith?
Here are some questions we can ask ourselves.
Do they know that God loves them?
The greatest good of the gospel is that we get to have God Himself. It’s not just another transaction. It is a loving relationship instigated by the Father, executed by the Son, and communicated by the Spirit.
This is the greatest love story ever, because God first loved a despicable me. And I know I must do my best not to hurt the one who loves me more than anyone else.
To nurture that loving relationship, I would sacrifice, swallow my pride, and adjust. I would do all sorts of things for it. It gives me great joy to love the one who loves me so much that He sacrificed more for you and me than we will ever deserve.
Sin disrupts that loving relationship. It causes us to not seek a deeper relationship with God because of guilt and shame.
Repentance is the humbling act of making a U-turn so we can go back to our first and true love, apologize to Him, and seek His help. Then we will get to live life in the victory God won for us.
Keep reminding those you lead that God loves us no matter what. We are that prodigal son, and our Heavenly Father awaits our every return.
“‘For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
So they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:24 (NIV)
When we go back to God, there is much celebration.
No matter how dark our hearts get or what horrifying things we have done, God will forgive us because He loves us so much.
But we do not use this grace as an excuse to continue sinning. Instead, because we experience this grace, we do our best to live a life that pleases Him. It also does not mean that we are exempted from righting a wrong or facing the consequences of our actions.
As someone leading others, it is our role to constantly live this out and point those we lead back to God.
Do they know that they have a community that will help them?
The stronger the bridge is, the heavier the load that can cross it.
Repentance requires us to bring to light things we would rather keep in the dark. For some, it’s not easy to be that vulnerable.
How do we assure them that they can trust the church community? By making sure that going through the foundations is not just for their personal spiritual growth, but also let it be the front door to the community he or she can have in church. Each person’s journey of sanctification needs a community. Through you and the church community, condemnation should be the last thing they worry about in their acts of repentance.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:7
In the church community, as we fellowship with one another, we can remind each other of God’s word and promises, be vulnerable, check up on one another, and encourage each other.
Repentance is not a one-time event, but a constant seeking of the Lord when our flesh gets the better of us. Let them know that the church community will walk with them in every season.
Do we all know that teaching repentance helps us to remember as well?
If you have a thriving relationship with God, it is impossible to talk about God’s forgiveness and love to others without being reminded of God’s work in you.
I recall several seasons of my Christian life when I wanted to give up because I felt like I wasn’t getting any better. It was in these seasons that God would give me an opportunity to preach about His goodness in a way that I could not say no. At the end of these conversations, I would end up refreshed, recharged, and reminded.
“. . . whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”
Proverbs 11:25 (NIV)
I truly believe that preaching the forgiveness of God (backed up by striving to seek God even if it’s a challenge) becomes a personal reminder.
Maybe it’s high time to challenge them to preach this to others—to empower them to share the love of God to others. It would be a win-win situation: the people around them get to know God and they themselves mature in their own relationship with God.