“You forgot to practice … didn’t you?”
Just reading that causes me to feel that knot form in my stomach. My palms begin to sweat as my heart rate goes from snail’s pace to NASCAR-level speeds.
If you’ve ever taken a music lesson, played in a sport or participated in any activity that required personal discipline and practice, you know the feeling of hearing a statement like this.
Personally, I’ve heard this statement more than a handful of times. A few times at piano lessons; I had forgotten to practice, but somehow I was able to fake it well enough to get through the lesson without getting called out. Inevitably, the lack of practice would catch up with me, revealing my procrastination and ineptitude.
When it comes to the Christian life, there are many things we are meant to practice and improve at as we grow. We are to practice loving others, spending time in God’s presence, and pursuing the broken things and people of this world to bring the healing, hope, and beauty of Christ. Many of the things we are meant to practice, we could probably rattle off the top of our head. Whether we do them or not is another issue.
There is a lesser thought of practice that many people, myself included, have neglected in their Christian walk. Usually, it is not an intentional thing, it simply loses its sense of urgency or priority in one or more particular seasons in life, and never really regains its rightful and needed place in our lives. Sadly, the lack of this practice, like my piano lessons, has a way of revealing itself.
That practice, is the Practice of Repentance.
In the Old Testament, the prophets had this great one-word sermon: “REPENT!” When God would call the Israelites back to Himself, that was the message He sent with His prophets. REPENT!
When John the Baptist came, preparing the way for the One who gives us life and the power to change, his message was, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
In Mark 6:12, Jesus instructed His disciples to go out and preach repentance.
In Luke 15:7, Jesus said there was joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.
In Acts 2:38, the first sermon in the early Church was about repentance.
And in Acts 3:19, guess what the second message was: REPENTANCE!
In 2 Timothy 2:25, Paul instructs Timothy to preach what? REPENTANCE!
And in Revelation 2:5, Jesus says, “REPENT.”
Are you starting to see just how important this is? But in case you are wondering what repentance really is, the word simply means to “rethink or change your mind.”
The kind of repentance that is spoken of in the Bible also bears with it the understanding of a change in action, accompanied with the confession and change of mind. That means you stop the area of sin, confess it as such to God, and in turning back toward Him (instead of your sin) you don’t merely face the right direction, you begin moving toward it, toward the grace, love and forgiveness of Christ.
To practice repentance means to bring your heart before God daily, and allow Him to shine into the deepest, darkest, most hidden places of your heart and life.
It means giving Him access to the places you hide from everyone. Even yourself.
It means, through God’s grace and the power of His Holy Spirit and Christ’s Resurrection in our lives, refusing to allow sin to take root, not letting any habit or sinful attitude to remain.
It is confessing any sin that His Spirit reveals to you and then allowing His forgiveness and mercy to wash over you. It’s seeking His strength and wisdom to live differently moving forward. It’s a practice of allowing God’s grace to cover and forgive you, while at the same time motivate you toward change and living the new life He calls us to. It’s living changed because of His grace, not trying to change so that you can earn it!
So how do you plan to do a little self-cleaning today?
Take some time, whether it’s right now or right before you go to bed, and begin the practice of repentance. Unload the burden of sin, and take up the glorious journey of change that awaits those who “… seek the things that are above where Christ is … setting your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on Earth … putting to death therefore what is earthly in you …” (Col. 3:1-5)