Lesson 1: Don’t hang yourself for what Jesus already hung for.
We all do it. We sin, then we repent… But our repentance sounds something like this, “God, forgive me… I promise I will do better this time…” But of course, we don’t. We may do better for a while, but then we fail again, and those oh so familiar feelings of shame and regret come flooding back.
Judas may have been the first to walk this road. After he realized what he had done when he betrayed Jesus, he tried to repent… He even gave the money back, but his repentant works couldn’t fight off the strongholds in his life. And when all hope of self redemption was gone, he did all he knew to do… Punish himself.
And so it goes with us. A woman disrespects her husband or has a bad attitude, repents, promises to do better, and continues to fail. A man battles lust, and goes through the same cycle, the sin cycle, as I like to call it. Each time we fail we learn to hate ourselves more for the wretched people we are, or, even worse, we begin to blame it on this wretched Christianity, and it’s religious rules.
We then, like Judas, either end up punishing ourselves for or sins or we disconnect from religion all together, either walking away from God completely, or, again in my mind even worse, we create a fake Jesus that doesn’t care about our sin and just pats us on the back telling us its going to be okay.
But Jesus didn’t die so you could be okay with your sins. He died so you could be free from them.
How you ask? Repent. “But you just showed us how repentance doesn’t work?” Correct. But what if there is a different way to repent all together?
Judas wasn’t the only one who betrayed Jesus that day. Peter denied him… 3 times in fact. Peter was repentant, but didn’t fall into the Judas trap. When Jesus had risen from the dead, He met Peter on a sea shore and tried to challenge him to help lead this new movement.
Twice Jesus asked him, “do you love Me… (Agape love… God’s unconditional love)”. Both times Peter answered, “You know that I love You (Phileo love… Brotherly love)” Prideful, ‘I can do it this in my own power’ Peter was gone.he understood that this is what he was unless Jesus changed him. And change him He did…
Brother Lawrence, an obscure monk, wrote a powerful book called The Practice of the Presence of God (download it here for FREE). In it, he describes this other type of repentance somewhat like this (this is my paraphrase) “I would tell God I was sorry for this sin or that sin… Then I would remind God that this is exactly what I am and what I do, unless He comes to change me.”
The fact is, without God changing you, you will continue to sin. There is no use in promising God you won’t do it again. Remember the last time you promised Him that? How did that work for you?
Repentance isn’t about what you’re willing to do or not do. it’s about what you’re willing to become. When we repent, we should of course apologize for our sin (and I find the more specific the better), but we should also confront the fact that there is a part of us that still wants to sin. We must ask God to change us. And our promise to God should not be, “God, I will never do this again,” but “God, I am willing to change in whatever ways you want me to.”
Some of those ways will be Spiritual and intangible… You may not even be able to tell its happening. Some will be changing the way you think. Some may seem to be unrelated to the actions or thoughts you repented of. Still, others may be completely practical, physical steps you need to take.
Next week we will dive into these, but for now, remember this: Jesus already hung for your sins. Don’t hang yourself for sins that have already been paid for. Repent specifically, and ask God to change the part of you that desires to sin… And He will.
Read Part 2 here…