Jesus has a specific procedure for personal transformation. He has provided everything you need to so radically changed, inside out, that your destiny can be fully restored: you can be the person God created you to be. He is not turning you into someone else. He is restoring you along the lines of what He had in mind when He created you at the moment of your conception.
Transformation is required for restoration. You require radical change. Repentance appropriates the power of the Cross and the life of the Resurrection.
Jesus provided the spiritual power for radical change at the Cross. The Bible says, “The power of the Cross is the power of God.” In the Resurrection, Jesus conquered the ultimate enemy: death. The Bible says “The power that raised Jesus from among the dead is in you.” In the Ascension, Jesus returned to heaven with “all authority in heaven and earth” and is fully engaged in intercession there at the right of the Father “restoring all.” So, Jesus is working full-time to bring radical change to you, to the world, to all!
Jesus has a specific procedure for transformation that makes the power of the Cross, Resurrection, Ascension authority, and heavenly intercession available to your life: repentance.
Confession and Repentance
We confess to be forgiven. We repent to be changed. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us. Many people stop right there and make a lifestyle of confession the basis for their Christian living. Yet, Jesus is after radical life-change!
Repentance means a change of direction. Repentance means a change of behavior. Repentance means that the motivations that produce behavior are altered fundamentally. Repentance is our part that opens our lives to God’s part. Repentance means “I change to be changed.”
Confession as a lifestyle assumes that I will remain the victim of a repeating cycle of sinful behaviors that will be covered up by the Blood. Repentance as a lifestyle assumes that the power of sin will be broken by the power of the Cross and a new life and living will be established by the power of the Resurrection!
“Godly sorrow operates in a way that leads to repentance.” In other words, it is possible to be sorry for missing it, but not change in a fundamental way. This sorrow is real and sincere, but the sorrow does not produce change. Repentance produces change.
Perhaps you have seen this cycle of repentance avoidance in your own or someone else’s life. The person is a good person, loves God, but continues to live a cycle of behavior that reveals a lack of lasting transformation. Instead of repentance, this person justifies their behavior in such a way that avoids repentance. The end result is that the person asks everyone else, including God, to “love me the way I am.”
No problem with loving you the way you are, honey, but that is not the issue. The issue is getting the power of the Cross and the Resurrection into your life. Repentance does that!
Whenever I see a person avoiding repentance, I see a person with a ready justification for their behavior. Some people become experts running a loop of lies, first lying to themselves. The drunk says, “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again. Take me back. Forgive me. I am weak, helpless, and my past excuses me. Love me anyway.”
The issue isn’t about loving the drunk. The issue is getting the drunk free from the cycle. Jesus loves the drunk but His love says, “I want you set free of this cycle of lies and destruction.”
Many behavioral patterns go through cycles. Higher sentiments and motivations operate for a time and the person does better. Things seem to normalize, even improve, but a crouching panther waits! At some point the cycle kicks in with the same old lie. If you understand the cycle you can actually see the cycle kick in long before the addiction takes over. The internals have not been changed. The person has bought the lie that they have the behavior under control.
The word “repentance” has within it the word “mind” in the original language. Something is altered inside so that outward behavior is based upon a different thinking that appropriates spiritual power. The change is not, however, mind power. Repentance opens up the life of that person to the power of God.
I know Christian that cycle through friends, churches, relationships, and destiny resets for decades stuck in repentance avoidance. You can see it coming. I can say, “You are starting the cycle again.” Here it comes. Oops, there it is! The cycle begins long before the drinking, the anger, the strife, the fear, the destructive behavior. The cycle begins with the fundamental lie they refuse to reject that triggers and justifies the cycle of out of control behavior.
At the point where the cycle begins, they embrace the deception that justifies their behavior pattern. As the cycle begins, they are not listening to pleas for repentance. During the cycle they are operating on the “unreal as if it is real” lie, and their family and friends who can see the cycle are thinking, “Here we go again.” The person will usually close themselves off from help. The deception says, “I’ve got this.” But they don’t got it!
If you have out of control spending habits, for example, you have a great justification in your own mind about how “this is gonna work out” that defies the principles of finance. Somehow your mind tells you that spending more than you have or will have will not mean that you cannot pay your bills. You repeat this process consistently so that you live with increasing debt. You have a mechanism in your mind that avoids reality. You don’t have a simple comparison of money coming in and money going out. Then, when you cannot pay the bills, you have a irrational anger and cry of injustice about “banks, companies, rich people, the government, and your friends and family who have money” that substitutes for repentance. It is a sorrow of your plight that anger or fear blames on everything and everybody else. You justify your behavior in a way that makes sense to you because you are operating with a deception, a lie.
If you have out of control relationship conflicts, you have a practiced justification in your own mind about how people need to change if they want to get along with you that defies the principles of marriage, friendship, and the operations of the Body of Christ. Somehow your mind tells you that everyone else should change to fit your feelings and thinking and behavior. “People don’t understand me! Why don’t they listen?” you think.
This thinking is based upon some level of deception that you know what other people should do or say if they were right or had the right motivations. You are an offense waiting to happen. hell puts traps in your pathway, and you run right into them because you think you can walk that mine field with impunity. “I never step on the mines!” When you do step on the mines, “people just move them around to fool me. I was set up. People need to stop moving the mines around!” Then, when you blow up in anger, fear, rejection, depression, and ugly, you blame people, leaders, witchcraft, and demons for pushing you over the edge. You tell yourself, “I refuse to be treated this way, be abused, be a victim.” You have a well-versed justification for your out of control behavior.
Every gossip has a set of excellent reasons why their discussions are not gossip. Every addict has a lie that opens the door to the hit, the fix, the drink, the smoke, the abuse, the porn, etc. Every rebel believes his rebellion is justified. Every person who splits a ministry believes he is doing God a favor or “has no other choice.” Every thief has an over-developed sense of optimism that he won’t get caught.
After the dust settles and the smoke clears, sorrow may even produce confession, but avoiding repentance means that the fundamentals have not been changed, that the cycle only requires a trigger to start again.
Many people are so predictable that you can see the moment they return to their justification. You say, “Here we go again with Rupert.” As a leader you try to short-circuit the cycle and get some repentance going that will help them experience lasting life-change. But repentance is a decision. Repentance means you gotta say something. You gotta say, “I repent for anger” in order to appropriate spiritual power that breaks the power of anger off your life.
Right now, the kingdom of God suffers with spiritual ghettos filled with people who refuse to repent for their out of control behaviors: anger, rebellion, depression, fear, witchcraft, pornography, addiction, gossip, fear of man, a political spirit, worldliness, pride, and religion. They are like the mighty men David found in the wilderness disenfranchised from the kingdom because their personal behaviors disqualify them from full participation in kingdom function.
We have lost the discipline of repentance and embraced substitutes that limit the power of the Cross and the life of the Resurrection!
Self-justification and Righteousness
The Bible says that when we justify ourselves, we establish our own righteousness. In this way, we determine that we are right. Often the justification fills our minds with injustices against us, real or perceived, that make a case for our innocence or justification. “I am like this because of what happened to me, what I did to myself, or what hell has done to me,” we think.
If counseling only helps you understand this justification, understand yourself, or helps someone else understand why you have out of control behaviors, you aren’t changed as much as you become more of an expert about your justifications. If you are Christian, you will join the choir that sings, “Christian ain’t perfect, just forgiven,” meaning “love me the way I am. God does.” And, you will be joining a pretty big choir!
God will not be singing this song with you, however, because Jesus didn’t die on the Cross and conquer death and hell so you can be forgiven. Complete pardon is certainly available: “all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven; if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins.” However, many Christians never seem to understand that there is more to being saved than just having your sins forgiven.
The power of the Cross is more than a provision for a great Divine cover up. God isn’t really interested in covering your sins. He is interested in you not sinning anymore! God is not interested in you becoming a sinning Christian. He is interested in you being completely transformed! God isn’t dressing up your sinfulness with different clothes, educating you to learn to live with it. He is killing you, resurrecting you, and transforming you into the person He created you to be.
The basis for our justification of our behavior is the very reason for that behavior in the first place. If we could control the problem, we wouldn’t need the Cross. If we could solve the problem on our own, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to die for us. When we say, “Jesus died for our sins,” we are speaking of more than forgiveness. Jesus died to do more than pardon; He died to break sin’s power so that it is no longer in control of our behavior!