Returning to the Lord
I cannot begin to count how many times each day my older brother would attempt to convince my mom that he was old enough to decide what was best for himself. At this point, he was a feisty 13-year-old who had just discovered his newfound teenage angst and thought he could rule the world. Most of his declarations of teenage independence were harmless and actually pretty humorous, although sometimes, he would develop a bit of a sassy attitude and become disobedient. Each time this happened at the dinner table, my mother would gently turn to me and say with a smirk, “Emily, you won’t be a difficult teenager, will you?” I never hesitated to say no. The thought of acting out in anger or whining like my brother seemed extremely dramatic and never something I would do. Boy, my mom did not know what she had coming.
Not only did I whine twice as much as my brother did, I also sought to undermine my mom’s authority by tricking my dad into being on my side during each conflict. My father is pretty laid-back so he let almost anything reasonable fly. If I came to him with my best pouty face, I usually got my way. This meant that when mom said no to a request in the living room, I would scurry straight to whatever room my dad was in to plead my case again. Now, years later, I realize my behavior put a strain on my parents’ relationship that I did not understand at the time. By selfishly pitting them against each other in order to get what I wanted, I left my mother feeling alone and without my father’s support in parenting me.
After I left for college, I took some time to reflect on my previous acts of impatience and disobedience; I felt guilty. What I had done and how I had behaved was wrong and I needed to apologize and ask for forgiveness. I knew all my mom did was out of love for me. She loved me in a way that I didn’t really understand or acknowledge when I was unruly and ungrateful. Once I repented, she accepted me back into welcoming arms with a hug and her forgiveness. She forgave a daughter that had disobeyed her for so many years without a moment of hesitation, and I am grateful for the witness she is to selfless love.
Now, when I think of my mother’s mercy, it leads me to reflect on the Lord’s love for each of us. It is quite spectacular to recognize that while a parent’s love for their child is rich and merciful, the Lord’s love for each of His children is infinitely greater. God’s love for us is never-ending. Think of the depths of the deepest oceans, the height of the highest mountains, the swiftness of rushing rapids. The Lord’s unconditional love for us runs deeper, reaches higher, and moves faster than anything our minds can fathom. Together, our God is sturdy and forgiving, mighty and gracious, firm and merciful.
As we are called to ask for the forgiveness of those we deceive here on earth, we are also called to repent to the Lord because He is eager to forgive us. He wishes to renew our hearts and accept an invitation back into our lives. Through our repentance we can extend that invitation; we can receive renewal and forgiveness in a way that we will never encounter here on this earth. When our action is genuine repentance to the Father, His reaction will always be forgiveness.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot away my transgressions… Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” -Psalm 51:1&10
First, we must acknowledge that we have sinned and recognize what is impure within our hearts. What is keeping you from living your life for the Lord? Is there something standing in the way of your walk with God? What sins must you repent to start living a fruitful life for the Kingdom? In Luke 13, we find the story of the fig tree. A man saw that his fig tree bore no fruit so he instructed his servant to cut it down. He justified that the tree was of no use and was merely using up the soil. However, the servant pleaded that the man let it grow further. The servant told his master to leave it alone for one more year, in which he’ll dig around and fertilize it. Then, they’d return to see whether it bore fruit after receiving proper nourishment. This story reminds us that the Lord gives us plenty of chances despite the fact that we don’t deserve them. We may be unfruitful and resist the Lord’s offer of truth, yet he still provides for us and is merciful instead of cutting us down or dismissing us. Once we recognize that we have done something wrong, we will take a step towards growing closer to the Lord and bearing fruit for His Kingdom.
Next, we must humble ourselves in pursuit of the Lord’s renewal. When we come before the Father in repentance, we must have a willing heart to change our sinful ways. Both the desire and willingness to let the Lord change and transform our hearts are vital to true forgiveness. If we come to the Lord insincere, intending to fall into that sin immediately after seeking forgiveness, then we are letting our greed and pride cloud our judgement and stand in the way of finding genuine restoration in the Lord. While it is true that we may be tempted in the same area of sin again, we still must come before the Father in repentance determined to resist that temptation. When we surrender our sin and brokenness to the Lord, we humble ourselves in declaration of our weakness.
As in Luke 15, the Parable of the Lost Son (the Prodigal Son), the youngest of two sons came home after squandering his father’s money in sinful deeds and bore his faults defenselessly. The son knew he was unworthy of his father’s love and forgiveness yet the father gave it to him anyways, celebrating the fact that his son had return home to him. Our Father in heaven rejoices even greater when we repent and turn back towards Him. Luke 15 also exclaims, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not repent” (Luke 15:7). Come before the Father as you are, presenting your sins and asking for His forgiveness. Seek the transformation He is eager to guide you through.
Finally, the last step is renunciation of sin before the Father. This means stepping out with expectant faith and acting to change. Rather than immediately falling back into sin, renunciation involves taking steps to improve your self-control and seeking to follow through with the transformation that the Lord has begun within your heart. It means accepting the Lord’s invitation each day and willing yourself to deny the ways of this world and come before the Father ready, equipped with His strength and support, to combat the evil one’s lies and trickery. After I repented of my disobedience and received forgiveness from my mother, I became more aware of the sinful attitude that resonated within me and sought to exert more self-control in that area of my life. I did not only want to be forgiven for my previous wrongdoings, I wanted to step into this new chapter of my life with the intention of living out my roles as daughter and sister with newfound grace and discipline, eager to be a witness to God’s love in my household.
Renunciation not only entails rejecting temptation but also striving for holiness and discipleship. Working towards becoming a greater disciple of the Lord and strengthening your relationship with Him will help break down whatever barriers stand between you and the Lord. Living in accordance with God’s plan will ease the separation we face as a consequence of sin. Let us rise up in light of the Lord’s faith in us to become a witnesses of Christ’s love and vulnerability on this earth. Each day, choose to be humbled by your surrender and repentance to the Lord and deny the evil one’s desire for our separation from God.
“Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor- that is the only way out of a ‘hole.’ This process of surrender- this movement full speed astern- is repentance”
— C.S. Lewis
Lord, I pray that you may bless us with a Spirit of truth and humility. May we come before you each day and confess our sins as we repent for our wrongdoing and ease the separation between us. Lift us up with your strength to combat the lies of the evil one and choose You over all worldly desires. May we accept your daily invitation to bear fruit for your Kingdom and transform our lives to be in accordance with your will. Amen.
Emily Stanewich is a student at Michigan State University studying Urban and Regional Planning with a focus on city revitalization. She became involved with Kairos and University Christian Outreach in Lansing during her senior year of high school and is currently serving as an intern at the Kairos North America Headquarters. Among other things, Emily loves green tea ice cream, Jane Austen books, peonies and classical music. She also enjoys practicing calligraphy, watching HGTV, going on hikes, making herself to-do lists and studying revitalization efforts in Detroit, MI. Emily desires to reflect God’s love in each encounter she has and to continue on her journey of discovering her true identity in the Lord.