Friday, September 23, 2011

Repentance, Then Transformation

On September 16, 1962, the great ‘minor prophet’ of the 20th Century, A.W. Tozer, preached a profound sermon intended to guide followers of Christ stuck in a spiritual rut into the circumstance of transformation. Forty-nine years later, that message is never less relevant.

There is a brutal truth known to the spiritual life because of the fact that we only ever grow or rescind—forwards or backwards is the dynamic state of play that impinges on us all.

That brutal truth, referred, is known in this: only those that repent may be transformed.

The Forgotten State of Mind

A.W. Tozer could see the great wave of unaccountability coming—indeed, it had been some decades beforehand that the slide away from true penitent faith had commenced. He feared for the new wave of so-called religious freedoms.

The forgotten state of mind doesn’t press itself in a vernacular welcoming repentance; it focuses instead on many glorious things of God, ever underplaying the great holiness chasm between the Lord and humanity.

And we understand why this is a forgotten state of mind. Precious few messages are preached on repentance, and fewer still welcome such a message.

Humanity doesn’t like to hear the truth, especially a facet of truth so difficult to bear as one’s sinfulness paraded before us as if to rub our faces in the dust of our failures.

But the repentant heart, one that gorges on a humbly accountable mind, embraces its sinfulness because it knows that these are matters of spiritual life and death.

Tests for Growth – Answering the Hard Questions

Whenever we find ourselves in a most comfortable place, but paradoxically so comfortable it’s a rut that we are in, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves a searching question:

  1. Am I always honest, and am I always truthful? If not, where am I being dishonest or untruthful?

It’s a simple double-barrelled question. There are areas in our lives where we cannot look God in the eye. Equally, there are areas that if our church, our pastor, or even our spouse were to know we might be instantly ashamed.

Quickly we identify the source of the rut. Any prayerful analysis based upon such a question (complete with a concerted reading of the Sermon on the Mount) will reveal gaps—these gaps are stumbling blocks to growth. These gaps are feeding what Tozer would call a “winter of discontent.” In other words, our felt lack of joy is centred in nothing other than the sin we tolerate; it’s a lack of integrity with ourselves.

Are our mouths clean—and that’s not just about swearing/cussing? Is there anything we would tell, gossip or laugh about that we’d be ashamed of if we knew Jesus was present? (Well, of course, we know Jesus is present.) What about the money we have—are we using our money wisely? Are we still working faithfully and loyally for our employers? What about our fantasies? Where are we lazy or careless? Where are our thoughts impure or uncharitable?

This is not about putting the acid on us unnecessarily. We just cannot grow where we abide in sin. We ought to be encouraged, however, that God is graceful as a father forgiving their prodigal son or daughter.

Our Abba Father

We far too often categorise God as a Judge and not an abundantly compassionate Father. Yet, it is the Father’s prerogative to forgive each of us instantly, the moment we repent, and perhaps even the moment before we repent, as the Lord knows remorse is coming.

Let’s consider the nature of our ‘judging’ God using the words of Isaiah:

“... a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.” ~Isaiah 42:3 (NRSV).

If we are the bruised reed, or the dimly burning wick—as images of us struggling in our sin—our Lord will never break us or quench our dimly flickering flame.

Our Abba Father will never toss us to the ground or cast us aside when we admit our sin; instead, the Lord will take us onward into higher revelations of blissful transformation. The only way to growth is through repentance.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

A useful link to Tozer sermons.

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