This is the question the Holy Spirit has been pressing gently upon me as I've studied Matthew. Thankfully, this hasn't been a frustrating, guilt-ridden activity like it once could have been. Instead, I've found it intriguing, even when the Spirit spoke the word, "food" and I knew I was in for it. Eating healthy has always been a struggle for me. First of all, I hate the taste of anything green, unless it's mint chocolate chip ice cream. Second, for all sorts of social, familial, emotional and physical reasons I am addicted to sugar. I have spent no small amount of time and money trying to overcome this. I even wrote my own personal blog for a few months once, trying to hold myself accountable.
But as I've been pondering the promise that the kingdom of heaven is near, it came to me that the truth is I've never really BELIEVED that this was hindering the joy of Christ's reign in my heart. And I want THAT JOY more than anything else.
The kingdom is near, so why do I miss it in various areas of my life? It all comes down to the issue of repentance, a topic which has been sorely misunderstood in our Christian culture. So here are a few truths I've been processing, and which are helping me press into this with hope:
- Repentance is not so much a decision, but a process. There is that initial decision to turn around, but that is only the first step.
- There is a highway in my heart that either opens the way for Jesus to go deeper or hinders me from fully receiving Him in fresh ways. I must travel that road first, rooting out rocks, smoothing rough places. This is the process of repentance.
- Change has to happen in attitudes and actions and change takes time. I haven't stopped repenting just because I've failed. I only stop repenting when I give up completely. But even then I can always begin again! Altering life-long habits and attitudes (which is the biggest part of it for me), never happens all at once.
- Everything is possible only by grace, and thus repentance is no self-improvement program, but a way to allow Jesus to work for His glory and our joy.