The following is the actual, real-life prayer of a good friend who meets with Jesus regularly, pen in hand, to record both what he prays and what the Lord says to him. This was a particularly significant time for him, and he read this to me after he got my last newsletter. He felt the letter illustrated what He had just told the Lord. I immediately recognized it was a perfect example of my point in the posting and asked him if I could send it to you, and he agreed. Here is what he wrote:
“Today is the last day of April, 2020. One-third of this year is already over. Time really is so fleeting. Oh, Lord, how amazing! Without the knowledge of you…How frightening! Thank you so much for existing and being WHO YOU ARE!!! What a Father – What a Savior – What a Truth!!!
“Lord, I will cast my cares on YOU and be free!—free from the burden of sin—and be free to worship YOU and serve YOU, as YOU will! My offering today (an offering that is sincere at this moment but an offering I cannot give you without Your power, Your Holy Spirit, Your grace).
“Oh Lord, I guess, rather than repent for failure, I need to repent for desiring to be successful; for being discontent with being a sinner who is saved, rather than a good person who does not sin in the first place! This is the real truth: I am lusting after something I cannot have, that You have not promised—my own desire to be like God! Refusing to be comforted; refusing to look at truth; refusing to be a creature as you have made me; refusing to believe the gospel as You have ordained it!
“Lord, I can see it, but I am refusing to let it go! Even now, it is an intellectual thing…there is no experience – no joy – no change in my state. I feel like Martin Luther, flagellating myself to no avail. Thank You for opening my eyes to this, but I also pray for myself, for I know that to conquer this sin (situation-stronghold-spirit-state of being), I need the Holy Spirit to act upon me…this is not something I can do! I am helpless to be satisfied with myself without You!
“Save me and I will be saved!
“Heal me and I will be healed!
“Slay me…yet will I praise You!
“I surrender all (by Your power)!
“Oh Lord, I repent for refusing to be healed…for having a stiff neck…for being rebellious!”
Can you see that my friend’s prayer is a classic example of the first of the three-fold “series of events” that we discussed in last week’s blog posting that God takes us through as He leads us in a life of faith—an awareness of our constant, pervasive sin. My friend is aware that there is nothing he can do to change himself, and his last sentence in his prayer beautifully introduces step two in our series:
2. Genuine, heart-felt repentance for the sin you have seen in your life. Once you have clearly seen that “in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18), even when you are striving and staining to be holy and righteous in your conduct as much as possible, you are still a wicked sinner (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Because of the Fall, sin is endemic in every act, thought and attitude you have, and you hang on desperately to preserve yourself, to save yourself, to improve yourself, to reform yourself—to be a “good person.”
However, God is not in the reclamation business; He is not working at making you a “good person”—to remodel, renovate or restore you to be a generous, selfless, exemplary person. No! That is a useless, fruitless exercise. God sees that “every intent of the thoughts of (man’s) heart (is) only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). You have no salvage value whatsoever. You are sinful to the core and worthy only of only death.
So, because of His great love for you, God performed a divine “mercy killing!” He put you definitively “in Jesus,” and therefore He “killed you” as He was “killing Jesus” on that cross. You died with Him, were raised up with Him from the dead, ascended with Him to Heaven, and you are currently seated there too, ruling with Him over the earth, right now, from God’s right hand (Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 2:5, 6), fulfilling what you were created to do!
To see this clearly, with spiritual eyes, as my friend did (step one), leads you naturally and unconsciously to step two, represented by my friend’s last sentence in his prayer: “Oh Lord, I repent for refusing to be healed…for having a stiff neck…for being rebellious!”
What self-awareness! What humility! He cast himself on God as a little child, renounced all his efforts to be a “good person” and repented of those efforts. He told His Daddy, “I quit! You got it!”
What it means to “repent” is not clearly understood. Satan has tricked us again into thinking there is something we must do. We think “repent” means to “change one’s behavior,” but it does not! It means to “change one’s mind”(Thayer)—to no longer see my behavior as; “Oh, we all do that;” “It was his fault;” or “Nobodies perfect;” to, “Oh God, forgive me for that was my wicked sin.” That is biblical repentance.
When God shows you your sin and you see it clearly, the spontaneous thing to do is repent like this. Your mind is changed. What you excused, ignored and defended you now see clearly as wicked, selfish behavior, thoughts and attitudes. A miracle has occurred.
Now we are two thirds of the way to establishing a new lifestyle, a new way of life; a life of faith, lived out on a day to day basis—not just discussed, talked about with familiar words but without really understanding what they mean—but actually lived out experientially, with the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 a constant experience.
Next week we will explore the final step in our “series of events” the Lord takes us through in our walk of faith.