Wednesday, June 15, 2011
"A broken and contrite heart..."
…you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
I watched him shuffle away, shoulders slumped, face downcast, gently wiping tears from his eyes. The pain was real and deep. And it was sooo quiet. No more lies. No more excuses. No more scolding. The evidence was in and it was indisputable. There was nothing left to say. Oh, how I wanted to fix this - to bolt forward, gather him up in my arms, and tell him everything was OK. But instead, I sat fixed to my seat, choking back tears of my own. Time would be his healer now. God would be his Comforter. And God’s Spirit would begin its loving work on what was now a teachable heart.
See, my son had done wrong. And I simply could NOT make it right. He had sinned time and again over a 3 month stretch, and had finally been discovered. He’d grossly overspent his lunch account (only one school meal per week is allowed), then stone-faced lied (repeatedly) in order to cover his tracks. His retribution was to pay us back in full (all $108 he had “stolen” from us), which he did in that heart-breaking moment with the crumpled birthday bills and allowance he’d so faithfully been saving for a new iPod. As hard as it was to see, my son had to learn that disobeying our rules (and God's) result in consequences.
But even more than understanding cause/effect relationships, I thought a bigger lesson rested at the spiritual level. I told him I was disappointed. I told him about trust, and how long it took to earn it back. I told him about God’s all seeing eyes, even when parents can’t see (Heb 4:13). I told him how our sin always finds us out (Numbers 32:23). And I told him about God’s rule on stealing (Ex 20:15) and His opinion of lying (“The Lord detests lying lips” Prov 12:22). I told him that all a person really has in this world (and the next) is his soul, reputation, and character. These are the things that last. How could he have been willing to trade these precious possessions for a few rubbery chicken nuggets?? (Do you think I was too harsh? He’s only 9 after all.) When he finally “felt it” and showed genuine contrition, I told him to confess the whole stinkin’ mess to God. My son needed to say “sorry”, to me and to God.
Contrition and repentance are the first step toward change. See, I know that believers are forgiven (I don’t need a visiting doctor to tell me this!). It is the good news of Jesus Christ, gloriously sprinkled across every page of the New Testament. We are saved by God’s grace through our faith in Christ’s all sufficient blood payment for our sin (Eph 2:8 - 9). And this includes ALL our sins – past, present, and future (“once for all” Heb 10:10). But God has a goal that extends beyond forgiveness and salvation. If this were not the case, I would be writing to you now from my home in heaven. Instead God left me here for a reason - to change me into His Son’s likeness (Rom 8:29), to bring Him glory (Is 43:7), to reach the unsaved (Mark 16:15), to serve His people (Eph 4:12), and whatever else He calls me to do. When God gave us the book of 1 John, written to believers, He says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (v.9). God wants believers to confess their sin! Jesus Himself said, “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).
Repent. Confess. It’s what believers MUST do. Confession is a necessary ingredient for the furtherance of God’s goals. It’s cleansing, freeing, and prerequisite for change. When we confess, we agree with God that our choice was wrong and offensive to His character. We take ownership of our actions. We recognize God’s holiness, and our ongoing need for His grace. We admit our weakness and need for the Spirit’s strength and guidance. We experience freedom from the power of that sin by tapping into a power that’s even greater (John 4:4). We rid ourselves of the tightening grip that sin has over us, like extracting that festering meatloaf from the dark recess of the fridge, and exposing it to the light. Our hard hearts become teachable again, like malleable clay in the hands of the Potter.
It kills me to see my kids suffer. Isn’t my job as a mom to protect my children from pain? Yes, but I have another job as well. I am called to work with God to accomplish His goals in my kid’s lives, even when it hurts (growth and change often do.) Does God hurt with us when He executes His discipline? When He brings us low in order to raise us up higher (James 4:10)? Probably. But one thing’s for sure: He wants more for His children than just our forgiveness. Whatever our age, whatever our sin, God loves a contrite heart!