Shaped, Not by Rules but by Love
Read: Luke 19:1-10; 2 Corinthians 3:18
Can you see that? That is a fairly common question that I am asked. It is a good question especially because the very small amount of vision that I do have is dependent on the contrast around me and the color of the objects in view. Some things that I have never seen can be easily described. For example, stars are often described as looking like tiny points of light against the blackness of the sky. Since I have seen both black and light, I can picture the beauty of how the sky might appear. Yet, large vistas are so vast and grand that they are more difficult for me to fathom. Perhaps, that is why I asked a friend who loves the beauty and majesty of the Rocky Mountains to try and tell me what makes them so very special to her. Her description was good. Even so, I can't really truly comprehend the magnificence she described.
I wonder if some of our Christian terminology is like that to those around us who are new believers or those who haven't yet understood Jesus' amazing love and offer of grace, John 1:11-12. Some of the precious words that we rightly love might be concepts they might find difficult to understand. Terms like sanctification, justification, glorification and biblical repentance might seem a bit fuzzy to them, especially if they haven't seen them modeled in a loved one's life. I need to remember that there surely was a time when these truths were unknown to me and ask the Lord for clear and Holy Spirit led ways to share them with anyone who wants to understand or has questions about what we believe.
These thoughts came to mind this week as I was listening to REDEEMING LOVE, written by Francine Rivers. The book is an allegory based on the book of Hosea. When the story was complete, I listened to a short interview with the author. During that question-and-answer time, I heard a beautiful reminder of one of our precious biblical truths. Repentance. Francine Rivers told a bit of her life story. Prior to being born anew, John 3:3, she wrote romance novels. They were not books that honored the Lord because when she wrote them, she didn't know Him. After her conversion, Ms. Rivers was unable to write for three years. She had writer's block, and she wondered if she would ever write again. She spent her time beginning to come to know the One Who had saved her. She studied to understand this God. She was willing to never write again since, in her husband's words, she had cared more about her writing than her family. Perhaps, she thought, her career as an author was at an end. Yet, God hadn't put an end to her story telling. He was simply redirecting it. It was after those three years that she wrote REDEEMING LOVE.
Here is the example she shared of repentance that touched my heart. Not only did Francine Rivers change her emphasis in her writing to what honored God, she did something that showed how God's love had begun to impact her life. She bought back the rights to all of her old romance books to make it as unlikely as possible that they would be re-released. What I love about this is the fact that Rivers took this action because she wanted her readers to know what real love looks like. What she had previously written about was the counterfeit; so, she did what she could to keep that away from her readers. Because she had come to know God's love, she wanted to use her gift so that others might come to know her Redeemer. No one gave her a list that told her what she had to do. No, her actions sprang out of the overflow of God's love that had changed her, Romans 5:5.
Repentance. Turning away from old things to embrace the New. It will look unique in each of our lives as it did in Francine Rivers walk with Jesus. Again, I love that it isn't a list that we must go down and cross off. No, it springs from an understanding of God's love for us and a desire that others might see what that love looks like. Although we repent when we initially come to Jesus, we continue to do so throughout our everyday walk with Him.
In our scripture from Luke 19:1-10, we meet Zacchaeus, a tax collector. What a joyful thing it is to watch him repent and see how repentance changed his view of money. How amazed those he had cheated must have been to observe the sweet fruit of the tax collector's repentance. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 we are told that we who belong to the Savior are being changed from Glory to Glory. That is another way to talk about how on-going repentance looks. It is beautiful because, bit by bit, our lives are looking more and more like Jesus, Romans 8:29. When the Holy Spirit reveals an attitude or action which needs changing, we turn away from it and choose what honors the Lord. Every day repentance. That is walking out the word, and it is a contrast that new believers or those who don't yet belong to Jesus can see.
As I write this, I know how easy it is for me to not listen to the Holy Spirit's nudging for me to turn away from an action or attitude. When this happens, those around me don't see a clear picture of repentance, especially if I try to justify my action or blame someone else.
King David displayed both a lack of repentance and then a beautiful turning from sin. His sins were written in the Bible in 2 Samuel 11. His actions were wicked, and he tried to hide his sins. All who knew of his duplicity saw no difference between his life and those who didn't know the Lord. The same man who honored and praised God sank into actions that looked nothing like the God he loved. Thankfully, 2 Samuel 12 chronicles David's repentance. When confronted by the prophet, David both admitted and never justified his wickedness. In addition, both Psalm 32 and psalm 51 show us that David's life changed through the washing of God's love and the forgiveness he received. His desire was that others would know about the foolishness of trying to cover up sin and the joy of being cleansed by God, Psalm 51:10-17. Repentance. David's walk with the Lord never again had adultery as a part of it. His life was changed. Not as a result of a list of rules but by God's love that was lavished on him.
Lord, help us know Your love more and more. As we do, help us to show those around us what a life of humble repentance looks like.