The Gift of Repentance

I love cookies. Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite, and I love when they’re fresh and warm from the oven. My mom knows this too, so, growing up, whenever she took the cookies out of the oven she was sure to warn me not to take a cookie right away or eat too many, or I’d hurt myself and make myself sick. Now, in my youth I was a strong man and I knew how to handle my stuff, so I ignored her often and took for myself cookies just seconds out of the oven and threw them down my throat—and it hurt. Most times, I waited a little while before taking several more cookies to satisfy my sugar cravings, and, without fail, shortly after my stomach started cramping.

I used that analogy to talk about sin my first summer as a camp counselor in 2017. That first summer, I was a counselor for boys ages 7 to 9 (in a couple instances, 10). If you haven’t worked with those age boys before, know that it can be overwhelming to work with just one; I had ten. (Praise the Lord for co-counselors, though!) One of my jobs was to describe the Gospel to them over ten nights of devotionals. Oddly enough, I think my favorite night was talking about sin and turning away from it. We know that cookies aren’t bad (for most of us, at least), but sin is very similar to those cookies straight out of the oven or several down our gullet all at once. God tells us something will hurt us or make us ill, but we in our pride tell ourselves it’s okay—and we end up hurting ourselves.

The kids loved that analogy, and I love it too. Sin, for many of us, looks enticing—warm and filling, like freshly baked cookies. But at both the beginning and end of the day, sin does nothing but hurt us.

Turning from our sin is no small feat. From the moment Eve and Adam chose to disobey God, the spiritual DNA of humanity was altered. Without Jesus, sin is a part of who we are and with Him we have a constant battle to fight against the temptation of it. The beginning of this process is simply acknowledging that we have sinned which leads us to repentance.
 
Repentance is just a fancy way of describing how we deny the power of sin and live in alignment with God’s heart. It is saying, “I’m sorry for behaving this way. God, help me to do better.” In Christ's grace we are already saved, redeemed, and justified—so we do not need to worry about our salvation when we fail at being perfect, but a promise God makes is that if we turn from our sin and seek His face, the ashes of our failure will be made beautiful. I think 1 John 1:7-9 (TPT) puts it perfectly:

“But if we keep living in the pure light that surrounds him, we share unbroken fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, continually cleanses us from all sin. If we boast that we have no sin, we’re only fooling ourselves and are strangers to the truth. But if we freely admit our sins when his light uncovers them, he will be faithful to forgive us every time. God is just to forgive us our sins because of Christ, and he will continue to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

For us, in Christ, turning from our sin means turning to Him. He cleans us, and redeems us, and set us free. Holy Spirit reveals to us the ways we’re falling short—and in those moments, we are called to turn from our short fallings and turn to God knowing that when we freely admit our sins He will be faithful to forgive us. He will cleanse us from unrighteousness. He will turn the ashes of our sin into a beautiful crown of flowers (Isaiah 61:3). He will heal our land and our lives—because He has promised. That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, that there won’t be missed opportunities or that the denial of ourselves will come naturally, but it does mean that it will be worth it all.

Author | Alex Hinton

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