On Repentance

“16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression” (Isaiah 1:16-17a, ESV)

Recently, in the latest bizarre turn in what has been an incredibly bizarre (and looooooooooooooong) process to widen Hwy 73 in front of our Prairieville Campus, someone had a less-than-brilliant idea. “I’ve got it!” they exclaimed with confidence. “Let’s split this road…IN HALF. Let’s run it this way for a couple miles, in front of various homes and businesses (and one church!). And best of all, let’s ensure that drivers have NOWHERE TO TURN AROUND!”

Genius, I tell you. Thankfully, not long after initiating this nightmarish design, someone realized that for this plan to work for any length of time, it simply must include crossovers and turnarounds at regular intervals. While the extra quarter mile past wherever it is you’re going may be a minor (and often muddy) inconvenience, it pales in comparison to the all-the-way-in-another-parish detour with which we were presented originally.

All this to say, I’m grateful for turnarounds. And as I survey the landscape of my relationship with God, I quickly find that turnarounds of the Hwy 73 variety are nowhere close to the most important ones I need. No, it is undoubtedly the opportunity- and God’s invitation- to repent of my sin and turn to Him that means far more to me than anything you or I will ever experience on an Ascension Parish roadway.

Repentance isn’t something we talk about much these days. Let’s face it- on the surface, it seems pretty unappealing. I mean, why in the world would I want to stop doing what I obviously wanted to do in the first place so I can do something different, especially something that seems, at first glance, to be boring at best and downright difficult at worst? In this way, initially repentance seems like anything but a gift. But in reality, there are few greater graces with which God provides us than the opportunity to do just that.

Often, when we consider repentance, we think of it as a ploy by God to somehow steal our joy. If He really loves us, we (falsely) presume, why in the world can’t He just let us be? This business of transformation seems like such a hassle, such a downer to our ability to enjoy our lives. But think about this- If you saw someone who you loved deeply engaged in some activity or pursuit that was clearly to their detriment, wouldn’t you work by every means necessary to call them to change, even at the risk of them doubting your motives and intentions? If you loved them as much as you claim to, of course you would! We can all point to examples in which we have done this very
thing.

That’s exactly God’s angle toward us in calling us to repentance, first in the ultimate sense of calling us from our sin to salvation in Him, and then all along the journey of growing into maturity in Jesus. God simply loves us far too much to allow us to wander unimpeded toward destruction- not only our destruction, but also that of others, and ultimately of His glorious name. God’s perfect righteousness just won’t allow Him to let the grievance of sin go unaddressed. So in calling us to repentance- that is, to turn around toward Him- God is not attempting to steal our joy. On the contrary, He is actively working- by whatever means necessary- to preserve our joy in Him!

Recognize this clearly- The opportunity to turn around- from sin into forgiveness, from destruction into restoration, from death into life- is not our right or our entitlement; it is an astounding gift of unmerited grace, made possible only by the work of God on our behalf. We do not, by our own initiative, have it in us to turn around as we must, to save ourselves from destruction. We all, without exception, desperately needed God to “create the turnaround” for us. And the Good News of the Gospel is that for each of us, He has- in the person and work of Jesus. Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection laid the groundwork for us to get from a pathway to death to a road to eternal life.

I think it’s high time that we changed our tune on repentance, beginning to see it not as an unwelcome, unloving intrusion into a carefree life, but rather as a grace to be celebrated, as an opportunity to know a life we could otherwise never obtain for ourselves. Wherever you’re at today, as God calls and makes the way, will you turn away from your sin and begin to walk His way instead?

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