Over the past four weeks I’ve been talking about repentance, the first of the foundational doctrines mentioned in Hebrews 6. (Here’s parts 1, 2, 3, and 4). I’ve spoken of repentance primarily in terms of preparation for return out of exile and into home (and how Jesus is that return). For most of the weeks I talked about how that repentance also means a confession. We must confess that we have done something wrong and can’t fix it. We must also confess that Jesus is King, and therefore we are not. We must “prepare the way” in the dessert. So we’ve confessed those things, but how do we make the “low places high” and the “high places low” as Isaiah 40 mentions?
Repentance is Making High Places Low and Low Places High
Our world is constantly changing, and we are adapting to it. We like to change with it so that we can achieve some sort of relative homeostasis, that is that we can feel “normal.” But that’s not the kind of change I’m talking about. That kind of change is rooted in trying to make sure very little feels like it’s changed. It’s safe. normal. We can understand it. fit in. be unnoticed. At least unnoticed in the “good” sort of way. But the kind of change that comes with repentance. That’s something different. Something radical. It’s going against the flow.
To acknowledge and accept that I’m not ok as I am? That’s not something people like to hear. To stand up and shout out that I’m not in charge of my own life? That looks insane. To declare to others that not only am I not in control of my life, but they are not in control either, to declare that Jesus is King, and therefore no one else is? I hope you’re wearing some sort of armor, because watch out! This type of change isn’t easy, and it definitely doesn’t go down easy.
I’m sure you’ve heard that repentance is to turn away from sin. But if you turn away from sin, you turn toward something. When people are called to repent, there’s some sort of action involved. Constructive action. Not only must you change, but the world in which you live in must change. Sin is destructive, it is counter to God’s good creative work (see my previous posts on Sin: parts 1 and 2). So if repentance is to turn away from that, it means we need to be constructive. To do something good and creative (in the sense of Genesis 1-2) in the world. So what does repentance look like?
Giving away everything to the poor.
Quitting your job because you know God has something else for you.
Building and repairing homes anonymously.
Take a chance on someone whom everyone has written off.
Speaking in love to that person with the bad reputation, when you know others will talk.
Starting a non-profit.
Leveling mountains and filling valleys.
What? How is that possible? How do we do that? I could try my hardest for my entire life and never even make a dent.
Repentance is Surrender
You can’t do it.
You cannot successfully repent.
Making a straight and level path in the dessert? Who does that? That’s not possible.
And that’s kind of the point.
When we confess that Jesus is King (and I am not) we give up control. We lose ourselves.
Suddenly we’re not working in our own strength, but in his. Now the King of the World has given us the resources we need to level the mountains and fill the valleys. To create in his creation. To make something “good” and even “very good.” Not for ourselves, because we’ve already admitted we aren’t in charge, but for him and his glory. When we surrender ourselves, and follow after Christ, we can tell the mountain “to be thrown into the sea” and it will be done.
Again, it’s not for selfish gain, because we need to die. To give up ourselves. To stop living so that we can really live. And in dieing we find that Christ is the one who walked out of the grave, and we follow him to a new way of life. To preparing the way. Because this world is God’s Kingdom, and he’s on his way to claim it. To start the year of Jubilee. To start the party.
Next Week I’ll start on the next doctrine: Faith (yeah it’ll probably be in parts also).