Day 9: On Cheating Death
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.--2 Corinthians 7:10
True repentance is marked by joy.
How about a happy story? When I was young, I once worked at a church and the leadership wasn't doing things the way I thought was best for the church. There was much "fighting within and fear without," as the Apostle Paul would say, and I was tired. I was angry and frustrated. I knew that if they would just do what I said, we could get out of this mess! But the conversations were going nowhere, which meant I was feeling more right about my opinions and more angry about the refusal to do things my way.
During this time there was a incident with my children that changed me forever. Ephram had done something (I don't remember what) that required me to chew him out and as I was disciplining him for his actions Talitha stood beside me, arms crossed, tapping her foot, cheering me one, saying, "Yeah! And you know what else, Daddy? He did this and that and another thing. Yeah, and don't forget he shouldn't have been doing these other things either!"
"You self-righteous little punk!" I thought. I turned to her and I said sternly, "You are not the daddy! Go sit down. I will take care of you later."
Time stopped. The Spirit pressed pause. Ephram's face frozen in that lower lip pout, being-scolded face he makes; Talitha's face in that nose-in-the-air self-righteous expression; my left hand stuck in that pointing at Ephram position; my right hand stuck pointing at Talitha.
"Perfect! Now it's my turn to speak and I'll just quote you…'you are not the daddy, go sit down, I'll take care of them and I'll take care of you.'"
Two things happened simultaneously in that moment. I was convicted of my self-righteous, know-it-all, savior-of-the-world attitude and at the same time I was liberated from the heavy burden to be something and accomplish something that was never mine to carry. I am not the daddy. That means I don't need to carry the burdens of being the daddy!
True repentance came to me in that flash. The sorrow of acting like I was God was only over-shadowed by the joy of realizing that being God wasn't my responsibility…and I realized how silly I had been acting.
In my story I was like the self-righteous brother (from the Parable of the Prodigal Sons) who "did all the right things" but expected to be paid for them like a good employee. I was right about the way things should go so I thought I deserved to be paid for that, the payment being, "Follow me since I'm the savior of this organization," and when nobody paid up I pouted that I didn't get my way.
When the Spirit pressed pause and pointed out this wretched sinfulness there was a sorrow there, a sadness about my actions but it quickly turned to joy because repentance isn't just about giving something up. It's also about receiving something better. The sorrow was overshadowed by the joy of being liberated from the lie that I had been living. I thought I was the Lord of Jesus' church--I wouldn't say that of course, but I acted like it. Jesus came into that moment of parenting and he liberated me from a slavery that was killing me.
Real repentance leads to joy. If you get caught in a sin and you feel sorrow about it and you say, "I'm sorry" and you still keep kicking yourself inside or if you say to yourself things like, "You should have known better!" or "You are capable of so much more!" you need to watch out because you are most likely practicing worldly sorrow that leads to death, not true repentance that leads to life.
The joy of true repentance is that you look on your past sin and it just looks silly to you. You don't wallow in the shame of it because you recognize that the phrase, "You are better than that!" simply isn't true. Don't be so surprise at your sinfulness! Jesus was never surprised about your sins, why should you be? So get over that and receive the liberation of not needing to do or be something that was never yours to begin with.
Where have you been acting like God?
What burdens have you been carrying that don't actually belong to you?
Repentance is a matter of coming to your senses, like the younger brother who realized how silly he had been in following the way of wickedness. He woke up and decided to return home to a loving and gracious father.
Every step toward the Father is a victory for joy that cheats death of its sting.
I confess that I act like I can handle it but I carry burdens that are not mine to bare. Show me how to give these things to you, the only one who can actually handle these burdens. Then give me the grace to receive the joy that you would give in return for my burdens--it doesn't seem like a fair deal for you but I'll take it (I guess that's why you are so wonderful). Amen.