Merriam-Webster defines repentance:
1: to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life.
2 a: to feel regret or contrition. b: to change one's mind.
Repentance can be hard because change is hard. We get comfortable with the way we do things -- the way we live. But, after discovering that some of the ways we've been living are not as it should be, God calls us to repentance -- a willingness to let go of those destructive behaviors, so that God can remove them from our lives.
The apostle Paul said, "... Pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have... For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There's no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death." (2 Corinthians 7:9,10)
Jesus says,"... Healthy people don't need a doctor - sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners" (Mark 2:17). "... There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven't strayed away!" (Luke 15:7)
Romans 5:18 Yes, Adam's one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ's one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. 20 God's law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God's wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God's wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 6:1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? 3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. 5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9 We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. 12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.
So, I have to ask myself, "Is my 'old man' crucified with Christ?" Repentance calls us to full consecration to God and His leading because "half measures availed us nothing" (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 59). Andrew Murray described this commitment as the key to a Spirit-filled life, when he said, "Being filled with the Holy Spirit is simply this -- having my whole nature yielded to His power. When the whole soul is yielded to the Holy Spirit, God Himself will fill it." (Absolute Surrender p. 12)
Isn't it time That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24). Of course, to let go of those old dependencies is easier said than done. But, as I consider the way God has stepped in to help me whenever I surrender to Him in the moment of temptation, I continue to move forward in faith, trusting that He will never ask me to do anything that He will not provide a way for me to accomplish. (1 Cor 10:13)
I wonder what it really means to be "entirely ready to have God remove all [my] defects of character". Does it mean that I'm ready for Him to take control of my life, without me doing anything different? Or, could it mean that I am now willing to surrender all my known choices to the Kingship of my Lord and Savior -- no matter the consequences? The following quote has helped me to better understand this process.
"True success in any line of work is not the result of chance or accident or destiny. It is the outworking of God's providences, the reward of faith and discretion, of virtue and perseverance. Fine mental qualities and a high moral tone are not the result of accident. God gives opportunities; success depends upon the use made of them.
While God was working in Daniel and his companions "to will and to do of His good pleasure," they were working out their own salvation. (Philippians 2:12,13). Herein is revealed the outworking of the divine principle of co-operation, without which no true success can be attained. Human effort avails nothing without divine power; and without human endeavor, divine effort is with many of no avail. To make God's grace our own, we must act our part. His grace is given to work in us to will and to do, but never as a substitute for our effort.
As the Lord co-operated with Daniel and his fellows, so He will co-operate with all who strive to do His will. And by the impartation of His Spirit He will strengthen every true purpose, every noble resolution. Those who walk in the path of obedience will encounter many hindrances. Strong, subtle influences may bind them to the world; but the Lord is able to render futile every agency that works for the defeat of His chosen ones; in His strength they may overcome every temptation, conquer every difficulty." (PK 486-487)
I need often to consider if I really am ready for God to remove ALL my defects of character.
"With the Lord's authority I [Paul] say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But that isn't what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes" (Ephesians 4:17-23).
"But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don't lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him" (Colossians 3:8-10).
The question remaining is, am I willing to cooperate with God in this process of dying to my old ways that bring only pain and learning (by God's grace and power) to live as a new creature in Christ. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor 5:17)
I want less and less of the old man holding me back and bringing me pain and grief, and more and more of the new man, allowing God to bring me peace and joy. How about you?
For me, it's relatively easy to ask God to remove my defects of character. But to actually let go of these things so He CAN take them, now that's a whole different matter.
"Repentance includes sorrow for sin and a turning away from it.
We shall not renounce sin unless we see its sinfulness;
until we turn away from it in heart,
there will be no real change in the life." (Steps to Christ, 23)
We shall not renounce sin unless we see its sinfulness;
until we turn away from it in heart,
there will be no real change in the life." (Steps to Christ, 23)
I do sorrow for my sins and I want to change, but it is hard to let go of the old, established ways. In my experience and observation, God seldom removes these difficulties without human co-operation. More on the "the divine principle of co-operation". "As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent." (Christ's Object Lessons, 333). This is the only lasting way that I have found to successfully let go of my weaknesses so that God can take them.
"It is the virtue that goes forth from Christ,
that leads to genuine repentance.". (Steps to Christ, 26)
"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (James 4:10). "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11).
Jesus says, "I advise you to buy gold from me - gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see." (Revelation 3:18)
When I ask myself, "Do I want God to remove my defects of character?", my first thought is, "Of course I do! Just take them away, Lord!" But, as I continue to ponder Rev 3:18, I realize that there will be pain involved in this transformation of my character. Just as gold is purified with fire, so my character is tried and purified with the fire of trials and affliction. Is that really what I want?!
This makes character transformation harder than it first appears. But wait... is it really...? In holding on to my defects, I sacrifice "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7), for temporary pleasure. But, in choosing to let God work in whatever way is best for me (Philippians 2:13), I "buy" my eternal happiness by being "tried in the fire" of trials now.
Since the beginning of my recovery (1994), I have many times been through the "fire", and I can testify to you today that the pain is truly worth the gain :-) God is good! "The Lord... is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent." (2 Peter 3:9).
The apostle Paul reminds us too, that when the going gets real hard, God carries us: "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure." (1 Corinthians 10:13).
I don't know about you, but I want a character of pure gold, and if that means sacrificing current pleasure for an infinitely bright future, then so be it. Lord, I come to the foot of the cross, asking that your will may be done in my life today...
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
As I consider what it means to be entirely ready to have God remove my defects of character, it seems to me that a large part of that readiness has to do with the constant surrender of my will to God's. I want God to will and do in my life according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13), but am I willing to do my part? And, just what is my part? As I've considered that question, I came across this quote that is giving me a clearer understanding. I'm still reading it over and over, praying for wisdom, understanding, and a willing heart.
"When the soul surrenders itself to Christ, a new power takes possession of the new heart. A change is wrought which man can never accomplish for himself. It is a supernatural work, bringing a supernatural element into human nature. The soul that is yielded to Christ becomes His own fortress... A soul thus kept in possession by the heavenly agencies is impregnable to the assaults of Satan. But unless we do yield ourselves to the control of Christ, we shall be dominated by the wicked one. We must inevitably be under the control of the one or the other of the two great powers that are contending for the supremacy of the world. It is not necessary for us deliberately to choose the service of the kingdom of darkness in order to come under its dominion. We have only to neglect to ally ourselves with the kingdom of light. If we do not co-operate with the heavenly agencies, Satan will take possession of the heart, and will make it his abiding place. The only defense against evil is the indwelling of Christ in the heart through faith in His righteousness. Unless we become vitally connected with God, we can never resist the unhallowed effects of self-love, self-indulgence, and temptation to sin. We may leave off many bad habits, for the time we may part company with Satan; but without a vital connection with God, through the surrender of ourselves to Him moment by moment, we shall be overcome. Without a personal acquaintance with Christ, and a continual communion, we are at the mercy of the enemy, and shall do his bidding in the end." (Desire of Ages p. 324).
WOW! When it comes to this "progressive work of a lifetime" (sanctification), there is no neutral ground. All my righteousness is as "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). My only hope of living a Godly life is by maintaining a constant vital connection with God.
It's pretty easy to say that I'm ready for God to remove all my defects of character. Likewise, it is also easy to ask Him to take away those sins that so easily beset me. And, I'd like to think that all I have to do is ask God to put the proverbial bit in my mouth and lead me around like a horse, according to His good pleasure. But I remember what God said about that: "Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle..." (Psalms 32:9). And then I remember Romans 6...
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. (Romans 6:1-3,11-12)
I see now that this involves me more than my lazy SELF would like. In fact, this means death to my SELF. And, just like Jesus voluntarily laid down His life to pay the penalty for my sins, so must I choose to die to my old behaviors that have led to my defects in character. It seems that it is when I die to SELF that God works to remove my defects of character.
In a practical sense, it works for me like this... A temptation comes... It could be any kind of temptation that tries to lead me into sin. I recognize my powerlessness. I believe in Christ as my only hope of victory. Then I choose to surrender my will and life to my Savior, and ask Him what I should do (Acts 9:6). This is how I die to SELF. Rather than SELF stubbornly battling with satan for the victory, I must use my will to surrender SELF to God. This is when He gives me the victory! This is how, I believe, God transforms my character -- a little at a time. More about the will...
You may wonder if this will work for you. I challenge you to try it. Taste and see that the Lord is good, then He will do exceedingly more for you (and through you) than you have ever imagined (Ephesians 3:20).
After discovering what my issues are, and confessing them, I realize that, of myself, I can do no good thing (John 5:19,30). And, I know that without God's help I will surely fail (John 15:5). But, do I have the faith and trust in God to repent -- to believe that I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13)
For 120 years, God used Noah to plead with the people to repent, and join Noah in the safety of the ark. "And now the servant of God made his last solemn appeal to the people. With an agony of desire that words cannot express, he entreated them to seek a refuge while it might be found. Again they rejected his words, and raised their voices in jest and scoffing." (Patriarchs and Prophets 97.3) They would not get into the boat. They refused to let go of their issues and enter into the safety of the ark.
Today, God pleads with us, just as He did with the people of Noah's day, for "The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent" (2 Peter 3:9). And So, I must ask myself, "Will I get in the boat?" Will I choose to let go of my "comforts" that I may find true peace and happiness? Or, will I continue to cling tenaciously to my old ways -- doing the same destructive things over and over again, expecting different results?
What about you? Are you ready to let go, and let God...? Are you ready for God to remove your defects of character? If so, "God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others" (2 Corinthians 9:8). "In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation" (1 Peter 5:10). Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20,21)
It is only by the mercies of God that we have come this far by faithfully following His leading through this healing process of recovery/sanctification. Now, we are invited to get ready for God to remove our defects which we so painfully identified and confessed. In getting ready, the apostle Paul portrays a state of humility, when he said, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1).
When we are entirely ready to let go of our defects of character, this "sacrifice" is holy and acceptable unto God. Paul continues, And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2). It is so easy to get entangled with worldly pursuits. But, we must remember that, whatever we behold, we become like. In order to be renewed to be more like Jesus, we need to behold Jesus a whole lot more, and the things of this world a whole lot less. Thus, our minds are renewed. God heals our defects of character. Thereby, we are transformed to become more and more like Jesus. Surely that must be "good, and acceptable", as the "perfect will of God" works both in us and through us.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:5)
Now that I've identified my major issues in my introspective inventory, and confessed them, I must decide whether I am willing to let these things go. It's not a question as to whether I am able to turn away from my destructive behavior, because I CAN NOT.
My understanding of the question posed to me in 1994, was something like this: "If it were possible for you to stop doing those destructive behaviors that you have identified and confessed, would you? Or, do you want to continue to do things that bring you temporary pleasure, at the cost of lasting pain?" After 25 years of pain, I was ready for something better.
I knew that, of myself, I could do nothing (John 5:19,30). I knew that without God's help I would continue to fail (John 15:5). But would I have faith enough to believe that, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13)? Here are some quotes that brought (and continue to bring) me great hope:
"Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in the life. By yielding up the will to Christ, we ally ourselves with divine power. We receive strength from above to hold us steadfast. A pure and noble life, a life of victory over appetite and lust, is possible to everyone who will unite his weak, wavering human will to the omnipotent, unwavering will of God." (Ministry of Healing page 176)
"As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings." (Christ's Object Lessons, page 333)
Even now, as God prompts me to change, I must make a conscience decision to allow God to "will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13) in my life, so that He can continue to remove my defects of character.
"One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, 'Would you like to get well?'" (John 5:5-6) Likewise, God asks us today, "Would you like your defects of character to be healed?" Of course we do, right?
But wait... Are we really ready to co-operate with God in this healing process? Do we have any idea just how far-reaching this decision could be? Are we willing to accept the lifestyle changes, the attitude changes, and the trials (healing crisis) that will come to us during this healing process? Is it worth the trouble?
As a participant in this process since 1994, I can answer with a resounding YES! It is oftentimes a painful process. The rather overused phrase "No Pain, No Gain" applies here too. James put it this way, "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." (James 1:2-4). And Paul said it like this: "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." (Romans 5:3-5)
It is my understanding that the only thing we will take to Heaven is our character. It is good to recognize our character flaws and to confess them, but those things will avail us little unless we choose to co-operate with God in the "progressive work of a lifetime", the sanctification of our character. As we do that, God works in us "to will and to do of his good pleasure" -- we become more like Jesus! (Philippians 2:13)
Lord, whatever it takes, please make me whole and healthy, and show me how to cooperate with you in this process.
In this passage, it appears to me that David is entirely ready for God to remove his character defects:
I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word.
Keep me from lying to myself;
give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.
I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations.
I cling to your laws. Lord, don't let me be put to shame!
I will pursue your commands, for you expand my understanding.
Teach me your decrees, O Lord; I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions;
I will put them into practice with all my heart.
Make me walk along the path of your commands,
for that is where my happiness is found.
Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money!
Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word.
Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you.
Help me abandon my shameful ways; for your regulations are good.
I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness.
Now, I must ask myself, "Am I as entirely ready for God's intervention in my life, as David seems to be?" Or, am I still clinging to some of my old ways? Am I ready for ABSOLUTE SURRENDER to God, so that I may live in ABSOLUTE PEACE and in the confidence of believing that He would never lead me in a way that I would not choose, if I knew what He knows? "...Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (Mark 9:24) How about you? Can you identify with David? Are you entirely ready...?
Step 6: "Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character."