This past Sunday, preaching through Revelation 3, the issue of Repentance was front and center. The churches in Sardis and Laodicea were both in desperate need of waking up to their true condition and turning back to God. As a pastor, if Im' being honest, repentance is a whole lot easier to preach than it is to practice.
The day before, I had just dug in to J.D. Greear's new book, "Gospel". It only took a few pages for me to know that these were words my soul needed to hear at this crossroad in my life. But somewhere near the end of Chapter 2 a painful realization began to take place. Greear shared that he had begun to investigate what recurring sins were present in his life. He started down his list: worry, anger, overworking & neglecting his family, depression, lying.... His list was very troubling to me. Not because of judgment. But because of identification. His list was my list. And that stung. But then we moved from the sting to the blow to the head (or maybe I should say, the heart). Greear began to humbly confess that, while these sins are exactly that - SIN - there was a deeper root to them. They were just symptoms of a much greater, deeper-rooted corruption. All these recurring rebellions were simply the ripple effect and byproduct of his need for people's approval. Listen to what he says:
"My problem is that my heart so craves the approval of others that these sins come as instinctively to me as breathing! I delight more in the approval of others than I do in the approval of God. I am an idolater. That is my depravity."
I sat there in my chair in the corner of my bedroom, broken. Exposed. Humiliated. And at the same time, somehow beautifully and wonderfully relieved! How could I not have seen this? How could it not have been crystal clear? I had spent so much time and energy trying to trim off the branches and snip the limbs of a diseased, dying tree rather than digging down to the root of it all, pulling it up, and carrying that filth out of my yard. No more! I'm not called to live this way. And neither are you. And if the tree keeps showing signs of rot, decay, or death, it might be time to check the roots.
I am so grateful for my church family. As I stood there this past Sunday, having to confess that the underlying root of most of the sin in my life is "the need for your approval and admiration", never did I feel condemned or isolated. I felt loved. Forgiven. Hopeful. Relishing the truth that "the Gospel shows me a God who is better than the approval of others and a God more valuable than their praise. The Gospel shows me that God's presence and approval are the greatest treasure in the universe." (Greear) I don't need their approval. Or yours. And my church family, they don't need mine. We are all in desperate need of God's approval. And in Christ Jesus, I am found righteous, purified, and redeemed. Approved! Thank You, Jesus!
Have you taken time to dig below the surface of your "sins"?
Is confession and repentance a regular part of your life and walk with Christ?
"God made him who knew no sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21