Moore: Repentance is a journey
It was a dark and stormy night. Through my window, I stole an illicit glance as lightning illuminated the interior of my neighbor’s kitchen. With racing heart, I looked upon a vision of incredible beauty and desire.
Oh, that I had walked away! Alas, I couldn’t avert my eyes.
This is a family publication, but I must describe this gorgeous creation, curves and all. It was a Delonghi combo expresso/coffee machine. When lightning took out our power, I stole into that kitchen and stole what surely I deserved. Never mind my neighbor’s tears for coffee no longer poured … I would revel in the greed of my ill-gotten grind, savoring the ecstasy of espresso so envied.
So before you call the police to have me arrested, I made that up! I have no view into my neighbor’s kitchen! I mean, who would do something like that? Surely not I (even though that is a sweet coffee setup). What punishment would a just God mete out to one so deserving of criminal justice?
There’s a historic answer to that question, and the perpetrator in the story wasn’t a mere coffee thief. He ruled one of the ancient world’s great kingdoms. Here the object of desire was his neighbor’s wife, Bathsheba, and by the time the sordid affair was over King David was guilty not just of lust and envy, but of theft, deceit, adultery, and murder. We might expect this to be a story about judgment, but it’s not. It’s about hope.
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The reason we celebrate this story isn’t the depth of David’s sin, but God’s response of mercy and forgiveness. And it’s not like David didn’t face consequences. He suffered greatly. But his story doesn’t end in guilt, shame, and isolation. David experienced all of these, yet ultimately his guilt and shame gave way to hope, forgiveness, and redemption.
Here’s where I’m heading. There was an essential choice in David’s redemption, without which his story would be very different. Humiliated, broken, and completely found out, this was his lowest point.
It was also his life’s turning point, for here David made the choice necessary for the healing and redemption of anyone (like me, and probably like you) who has failed, acted selfishly, and hurt people by our choices, words, and actions. It was the choice of repentance.
Repentance. There’s a word we don’t use much anymore. In a culture that prizes self-validation above all else, it’s almost heretical to suggest that any of us need to change. Deeper still, that we need to change at the level of our very identity and soul, because we finally recognize our selfishness and rebellion, our desperate need for a new life, and our utter inability to provide this for ourselves.
For King David, this moment of deep repentance is recorded in Psalm 51, one of the most honest — and hope-giving — ancient poems known to mankind. At the risk of oversimplifying this precious gift of Hebrew Scripture, here’s David’s prayer in my own words.
“Have mercy on me, God, because of your unfailing love. I recognize my selfish pride and acts, and I’m haunted by what I’ve done. Ultimately my rebellion is against you, and you are just to judge me. But God, create in me a clean heart! Make my spirit new and right again! Restore to me your joy by saving me, give me a heart that desires your ways. You don’t want my feeble efforts to save myself, and there’s nothing I can give to buy my innocence. What you desire is my brokenness and true repentance of heart. This you will accept with joy, and you will bring redemption.”
Friend, if you are burdened by guilt and shame, there is great hope. It’s not just about turning from morally negative actions to morally positive actions. As with depression and mental illness, we don’t have the power to just “stop sinning” or “get better” on our own. That is the claim of performance and legalism, and it rarely brings freedom.
Rather, repentance is about turning from a life achieved by self to a life received from God. It’s a journey, starting with faith to surrender and continuing with dependence on the God who created you, loves you, and gave his life to save you. There are many on this journey with Jesus, and he invites you to join us. I really didn’t steal that coffee machine, but I’d love to buy you a cup and listen to your story. Repentance saved my life, it might just save yours.
Ethan Moore is the pastor of Trinity Church in Edwards. He and his wife Lisa have lived in the valley since 1995. You can reach him at email@example.com.